EARLY — The Early Longhorns chalked up their first victory of the season, and the Kent Hawthorne coaching era, at San Saba last week. Now, the Longhorns (1-1) hit the road again as they venture to Coleman (1-1) in search of their first win streak of 2013 — a goal that’s the same for the host Bluecats.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hufford Field.
Hawthorne was pleased the Longhorns landed in the win column, but stated Early hasn’t quite arrived yet and that Coleman will provide another stern challenge.
“We can’t be satisfied with one win and start thinking we’re the greatest thing in the world,” Hawthorne said. “We have to buckle down this week and go to work. Coleman went 2-8 team last year but they beat the heck out of Early. Coleman’s not a 2-8 team this year, especially with the speed they’ve got.”
As for last week’s 23-15 victory over San Saba, Hawthorne stated, “It goes without saying that wins always fix the little things that are broken. The win itself gives you a little confidence. San Saba’s a good football team that played hard. They’re 0-2 right now, but they’re pretty solid and can get after you. But I’m proud of our kids. There were times where they could have easily given up but they didn’t.”
In victories, as well as losses, there is room for improvement. Early’s victory over San Saba was no exception, according to Hawthorne. Among the areas where Hawthorne would like to see improvement include not capitalizing on scoring opportunities, and backing the defense into a corner.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” Hawthorne said. “We had more than 460 yards of offense and only scored 23 points. The four times in the first half we were in scoring range that we didn’t score, if we put that on the 23 points we scored, it could have been lights out at the half. The first drive was 13 plays and we didn’t score, we sputtered and that can’t happen. We can’t get down there and go backward. We have to learn to put the ball in the end zone.
“Our defense played lights out and that’s one thing I’m fired up about. They’re going to have to continue to play lights out all the time. We put our defense in bad situations against San Saba. They didn’t have to drive the field on us but we kept rising to the top. We had a bunch of kids cramping up and some twisted ankles. We had to get kids off the bench who didn’t have a lot a reps during the week. We work our starters as much as possible in practice, so the rest of the kids are on the scout team, but they stepped in and did a great job.”
Coleman, meanwhile, put its 46-8 opening loss to No. 6 Wall in the past as it cruised to a 37-12 road victory over Coahoma.
The Bluecats overcame four turnovers by finishing with 327 yards of total offense — 183 passing and 154 rushing — while holding Coahoma to 195 yards and forcing three turnovers. Jaquan Hemphill rushed for 86 yards, caught three passes for 89 yards and scored three touchdowns — on receptions of 7 and 72 yards and a 46-yard carry. Thomas Hurtado rushed for a 20-yard touchdown and caught a 48-yard scoring strike from Cord Norris, who completed 10 of 18 passes for 183 yards.
For the season, Coleman is averaging 22.5 points and 282 yards — 149 rushing and 143 passing — while giving up 29 points and 296 yards per game, with 267 coming on the ground and just 29 through the air.
Early’s defense, meanwhile, has been a tale of two games. In the opener against No. 8 Cisco, the Longhorns were shredded for 602 total yards, including 419 rushing along with 183 passing. But against San Saba, Early yielded only 244 yards — 172 on the ground and 72 through the air.
Cody Morrison’s 23 tackles lead the Longhorns trailed by 19 from Jake Fisher, 14 from Nick Alcorta, 12 each from Landon Beck and Raymond Weckwerth and 10 from Jakob Morgan. Early has also caused three turnovers — an interception by Fisher and fumble recoveries by Morgan and Morgen Macke.
Containing Coleman’s speed will be the greatest challenge for the Longhorns Friday night.
“Coleman’s got some good speed, a good receiver and a quarterback that does the right things,” Hawthorne said. “Their tailback can really get to the edge quick, so we’re going to have our hands full.
“Last week we bent but didn’t break and we’ve got to be like that. When you’re blitzing and doing the things we’re doing you can put yourself in bad situations, but we’re trying to create turnovers and make big plays.”
Coleman faced traditional run-oriented offenses against Wall and Coahoma, so the Longhorns will present the Bluecats with an entirely different scheme to try and slow down.
“The film we’ve got on them is against two teams that played the slot-T,” Hawthorne said. “We don’t do any slot-T, so we’re not getting a good look. We went to their Merkel scrimmage and watched a little bit of that. They ran a split and a 4-3 sometimes, so that’s what we’ve been working against. But they were quick and they fly to the ball.”
Early is producing 15.5 points and 290 yards per game, with 203.5 yards coming on the ground and 86.5 through the air.
Riley Mitchell has rushed for a team-high 213 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, while Fisher has chipped in 107 yards and a touchdown on 21 totes. Bubba Reno has completed 19 of 36 passes for 148 yards with a touchdown, while Kellan Jackson has grabbed seven receptions for 32 yards, Fisher has hauled in three receptions for 48 yards, Chris Johnston has pulled down three catches for 15 yards and Alcorta has made two catches covering 88 yards with a touchdown.
Hawthorne listed turnovers and field position as keys to determining the final outcome Friday night.
“We have to really play well and hopefully we’ll create some turnovers,” Hawthorne said. “We need to change the field position here and there and take our shots. We still need to be able to finish drives, and turnovers have hurt us bad. We’re still learning how to win, learning how to finish off drives. We’ve gotten better each day, each game and I’m proud of that. We just need to keep plugging away and do what we do.”