EARLY — A week after being held to seven points in their only setback of the season, the Early Longhorns' offense got back on track, and the defense continued its stellar play, in Friday night's 48-7 homecoming rout of the previously undefeated Hamilton Bulldogs.
“This game should be fun and they're having a lot of fun,” said Early fourth-year head coach Blake Sandford, whose team has already matched last season's win total and is the first Longhorn squad with a 3-1 record since 2006. “If they're having fun and playing at a pretty good level, who knows what could happen. We're celebrating the wins and everything that goes along with winning, and that's fun.”
Rain stayed away from Longhorn Stadium for the most part Friday night, with the exception of the crowning of the homecoming queen and king and early portion of the third period, but the Hamilton (3-1) defense was drowning in a flood of big plays by the Early (3-1) offense.
Limited to just 171 yards in a 16-7 loss to Tolar last week, the Longhorns generated 516 yards of total offense — 330 through the air and 186 on the ground — against Hamilton as six of Early's touchdowns were from 18 yards or longer and four covered more than 30 yards.
“When it clicks it's nice,” Sandford said of the offense. “It all goes back to the coaching staff doing just a tremendous job of studying film and getting the game plan together and getting our kids in the right position to be successful.
“They had short memories about last week and this is just a continuation to progress forward.”
Longhorn quarterback Ryan Trompler — the Early homecoming king — connected on 16 of 23 passes for 319 yards with five touchdowns, including four to Timmy Smithson who hauled in nine receptions for 264 yards.
“Whether it's a quick screen or a shot down the field, we've got guys that have some athletic ability and can make some plays,” Sandford said.
On the ground, Jesson Tarrant rushed for 91 yards on just six carries and opened the scoring before Trompler and Smithson began to pick apart the Hamilton defense.
“We work on all of it everyday in practice and try to get all that into a game plan each week,” Sandford said in regard to offensive balance. “It's a matter of seeing where the defense is at and making the right calls and (offensive coordinator) Coach (Dale) Trompler and the rest of the offensive staff do a great job of putting our kids in great positions.”
Defensively, the Longhorns yielded just 185 yards, including 173 rushing on 59 carries — an average of 2.9 yards per attempt. Though the game started to get away from Hamilton late in the first half, the Bulldogs attempted just six passes all night, completing one.
“I can't control what's going on over on their side, but it's always in the back of your mind that they're going to run a boot leg or something like that, so we always try to be prepared for that,” Sandford said. “I was proud of the kids' effort.”
Hamilton seized a 7-6 lead with 3:48 left in the first period on 9-play, 48-yard trek that started when Daniel Bottlinger picked off Trompler — one of two interceptions by the Early quarterback — and ended on a 4-yard touchdown run by Kain Kunkel. From that point forward, however, the Bulldogs mustered a mere 129 yards in just under 40 minutes of game time.
“Our coaches have done a great job of making adjustments throughout the course of the games,” Sandford said. “I think our staff is one of the best around. The kids have been taught well during the course of the week, and they're able to do what we ask of them to the best of their ability.”
Early's first drive of the game lasted just 37 seconds as a 29-yard run by Tarrant on the second snap, following an incompletion, set up Tarrant's 19-yard scoring scamper for a 6-0 Longhorn lead just 1:39 into the contest.
After Hamilton took its only lead, the Trompler-to-Smithson fireworks began.
First, after a 34-yard carry by Tarrant, Trompler connected with Smithson on a 31-yard fade route for a 12-7 Early lead at the 3:29 mark of the first period, and the Longhorns never looked back.
The next possession, which began deep in Early territory, lasted just one play as Trompler found Smithson on a slant, and the junior receiver did the rest, outrunning the Hamilton defense for an 86-yard touchdown reception. Trompler then hit Ty Schafer for the two-point pass, as the Longhorns' lead grew to 20-7 just 55 seconds into the second quarter.
After Schafer blocked a 41-yard field goal attempt by Hamilton's Jace Slone, the Longhorns scored five plays later on a Trompler toss to David Shields from 18 yards out for a 26-7 lead at the 7:32 juncture.
Early scored once more before the first half ended as Trompler again hooked up with Smithson for a 37-yard touchdown, and Shafer grabbed another two-point reception as the halftime advantage stood at 34-7.
The Longhorns picked up where they left off on their first drive of the second half, needing just five plays before Smithson scored on an another fade from Trompler, a 48-yard hook up, for a 41-7 cushion just 1:38 into the second half.
Sandford cleared the bench at that point, allowing less experienced varsity members to gain valuable playing time.
Early tacked on one final touchdown with 8:46 to go as reserve quarterback Brent Grooms scored on a 1-yard carry. The drive covered 65 yards in 11 plays and chewed 3:14 off the clock.
“I thought everybody played well and effort is what we strive for first,” Sandford said. “You can't coach that. Once we have the effort and continue to add to that hopefully everything will fall into place after that.”
The Longhorns wrap up their non-district schedule at Hico next week, which lost to Hamilton, 7-0, in Week 2. Hico (1-2) picked up its first victory Friday night, 9-7 at Thrall.
EARLY 48, HAMILTON 7
SCORE BY QUARTER
Hamilton 7 0 0 0 - 7
Early 12 22 7 7 - 48
E: Jesson Tarrant 19 run (kick failed), 10:21, 1st
H: Kain Kunkel 4 run (Jace Slone kick), 3:48, 1st
E: Timmy Smithson 31 pass from Ryan Trompler (pass failed), 3:29, 1st
E: Smithson 86 pass from Trompler (Ty Schafer pass from Trompler), 11:05, 2nd
E: David Shields 18 pass from Trompler (pass failed), 7:32, 2nd
E: Smithson 37 pass from Trompler (Schafer pass from ), 7:32, 2nd
E: Smithson 48 pass from Trompler (Brandon Lombrano kick), 10:22, 3rd
E: Brent Grooms 1 run (Lombrano kick), 8:46, 4th
First Downs 12 23
Total Offense 185 516
Rushing Yards 59-173 25-186
Passing Yards 12 330
C-A-I 1-6-0 18-26-2
Fumbles Lost 0 0
Punts 6-35.0 1-26.0
Penalties 8-65 6-40
H: Austin Sherman 15-71, Houston Tucker 19-63, Kain Kunkel 10-48, Shane Catoe 5-6, Daniel Bottlinger 5-(-3), Colby Bailey 2-(-3), Jett Cortez 3-(-9).
E: Jesson Tarrant 6-91, Cade Wade 10-53, Brent Grooms 8-33, Stephen Holt 1-5, Timmy Smithson 1-4.
H: Bottlinger 1-5-0-12, Bailey 0-1-0-0.
E: Ryan Trompler 16-23-2-319, Grooms 2-3-0-11.
H: Bailey 1-12.
E: Smithson 9-264, David Shields 2-25, Ty Schafer 2-17, Jonathan Morales 1-8, Jeramiah Fowler 1-7, Ryan Hicks 1-0.