SAN ANGELO — In Coach Brad Bowden’s tenure as head coach of the Early Longhorns, the team has never posted a three-game winning streak — until now — and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. The Longhorns are now 3-0 in District 3-2A, and share the lead in the district race with the Wall Hawks.
The Longhorns put the memories of this year’s 0-4 start far behind them as they hung 35 points on the Grape Creek Eagles during the second half and ran away with a final score of 50-28.
Initially, things didn’t appear to be heading that direction as the Eagles took the opening kickoff and marched down the field, setting up a first down at the Longhorns’ 19. From there, however, the Horns began to assert their authority.
Jake Fisher knifed through the offensive line and dropped the Grape Creek quarterback for a 5-yard loss. Then on the following play, Cameron Denison picked off a pass at the Early 14 to thwart the drive.
It took the Horns a little time to get things going offensively, as Coach Bowden pointed out.
“Well, we didn’t play real well, we didn’t execute well, we played real sloppy and lethargic in the first half,” he said.
The Horns’ first possession went three and out, but Brandon Brownlee hit a booming punt from his own 15 to the Grape Creek 32 and from there, the Longhorn defense began to turn the battle for field position in Early’s favor.
After forcing the Eagles to punt, Early set up on offense at their own 19-yard line. Fisher took the handoff on first down and picked up 9 yards and that run would prove to be a harbinger of things to come.
After picking up a first down, then being flagged for a holding call, the Longhorns had a first and 20 inside their own 40. Denison found Fisher in the right flat and Fisher followed blockers and broke tackles until he broke free at the Grape Creek 30 and then outran everyone to the goal line and six points. Brownlee tacked on the PAT and the Horns led 7-0 with 3:07 to play in the first quarter.
Although Early certainly didn’t play flawless football, turning the ball over several times, the Eagles returned the favor as often as not. After the next score, Fisher scored again, this time from 7 yards out.
The Longhorns never trailed and found ways to overcome several miscues. The Eagles would find the end zone just before the half ended, and Longhorns went into halftime leading 15-8.
“We came out the second half and picked it up a little bit, but we let them hang around,” Bowden said. “You know the bottom line is ‘an ugly win is still a win.’ We wanted to come over here and leave 3-0 and that’s what we did. We know we’ve got to play better than that against Bangs and Wall and Comfort. But, those guys are next week. We’re gonna enjoy this one tonight, come back Monday and get ready for Bangs.”
The second half looked like it might be a bit closer as the Horns took the kickoff then fumbled the ball to the Eagles on the first offensive play. Grape Creek made the best of the opportunity and scored three minutes later to close the gap to 15-14, but that seemed to only steel the Longhorns’ resolve and they began to give the Early fans plenty to cheer about.
Just 59 seconds after Grape Creek had made it a close game, Fisher again found paydirt from 36 yards out. Brownlee’s kick was true, and the score went to 22-14. On the next possession, it was Austin Isom’s turn as he hauled in a 4-yard scoring toss from Denison with 3:45 to play in the third. Brownlee split the uprights again, and the score climbed to 29-14.
Isom’s next catch was a pass from the opposing quarterback to end another Grape Creek scoring threat. At the end of the third quarter, the Horns were well on their way to another district win.
In the final stanza, Colin Walker was on the receiving end of touchdown passes of 6 and 5 yards, plus Austin Isom made a spectacular catch in the end zone to close out the scoring. Brownlee was perfect on PATs on a night when the Longhorns had their best scoring output of the year.
The Longhorns will defend their district standing next Friday as they play host to the cross-county rival Bangs. A win for the Horns will keep them atop the district race and almost assure them of a playoff spot.