EARLY — The Early Longhorns open their home schedule still in search of their first victory as the undefeated Bruceville-Eddy Eagles visit at 7:30 p.m. Friday for homecoming.
The Longhorns (0-2) are coming off losses of 34-8 to rival Bangs and 41-20 last week at Roscoe. Bruceville-Eddy (2-0), meanwhile, started its season with a 32-26 double-overtime victory over Moody followed by last week’s 35-0 throttling of Axtell.
For Early, slow starts have haunted the team thus far. Both Bangs and Roscoe were able to score all their points before the Longhorns lit up the scoreboard in either contest.
“We talk about trying to be 100 percent with everything that we’re doing, trying to be perfect with everything we do in practice. That’s one of the ways we can do it,” Early head coach Blake Sandford in regard to what can be done to get the Longhorns out of the gate quicker. “We also have to overcome letting the little things get to us and getting our heads down.”
Against Roscoe last week, the Longhorns trailed 29-0 at halftime and gave up two more second-half touchdowns before the offense came to life.
“We got ourselves back in a hole in the first half,” Sandford said. “We did well in the second half. One of the positives we’re showing is we’re a team that fights to the end. We were able to punch in some scores at the end and hold them back at the end. We won the second half, we just can’t let ourselves get in a hole like we did. I’m sure proud of our fight and competitive way we tried to finish up strong.”
The Longhorn offense finished with 261 yards — 181 through the air on 10 of 26 passing with one interception, and 80 yards rushing. Early quarterback Trace Evans passed for 181 yards and touchdowns of 61 and 51 yards to Drew Sessler, who caught three passes for 127 yards, in the fourth period. Evans also rushed for 35 yards and an 8-yard score late in the third quarter.
“It was huge for us to score, especially late and especially on the last play of the game,” Sandford said. “We’re not going to stop working. That’s the mentality the kids have taken on from the coaching staff. We want to make sure we get as many things under our belt that we can that will give us that confidence.”
On the defensive end, through two games the Longhorns are surrendering 37.5 points and 374.5 yards — 302 rushing and 72.5 passing — per outing. Leading the way defensively have been Griffin Ehlers (27 tackles, 1 for loss), Abe Morris (18 tackles), Teddy Ozuna (15 tackles, 4 for loss), Christian Alcorta (11 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 FR), Miguel Elizondo (11 tackles), Christian Mills (10 tackles, 1 for loss), Mason Flippin (10 tackles, 1 FR) and Jim Fowler (10 tackles, 1 FR.)
“They’re getting better,” Sandford said of the defense. “We’re still just a play here and a play there away. We had 13 plays behind the line of scrimmage where we stopped them, but we also have to stop the big play. We’re still a play or two away from being in the right position with everybody doing the same thing on the same play.”
Bruceville-Eddy hasn’t reached the postseason since 1985, but is off to a good start in its bid to end its playoff drought. With one more victory, the Eagles will match their 2015 win total.
In last week’s shutout victory over Axtell, Bruceville-Eddy allowed just 143 yards and created four turnovers. Offensively, the Eagles generated 304 yards, with 179 coming on the ground.
Quarterback D.J. Weaver completed 8 of 14 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 76 yards and a pair of scores. Blake Herrera contributed 68 yards and a rushing touchdown while Tyler Ross added 36 yards on the ground and reached the end zone once. Marcus Cane Abilez led all receivers with four grabs for 83 yards, including the touchdown reception.
Defensively, the Eagles were led by Tucker Futch with eight tackles, Fernando Vargas with seven and Herrera with five tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. As a team, Bruceville-Eddy notched six tackles for loss.
“They stay pretty similar with their defensive linemen as Roscoe did,” Sandford said. “They’re going to keep five to six men in the box and they’re going to try and stop a lot of things we do offensively.
“They’re powered by their quarterback, he’s a good runner, so we’ll have our hands full trying to stop him. They have some big kids on the line that run pretty well. They’re 2-0 so they have a lot of confidence. We’re going to get after them, but we have to do it early.”
With Early expecting a large homecoming crowd, Sandford is hopefully the friendly environment will provide an additional boost for the Longhorns.
“Being at home always help with your timing and your scheduling of how you go about the pre-game and the familiarity because we practice out here every day,” Sandford. “It’ll be good to not be on a long bus ride. It’s always nice to be at home. Our fans did a great job traveling to the games and we want even more fans at the home games. It’s time to play at home and get a win.”
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Early is a 21-point underdog.