EARLY – Trailing by just two points at halftime, the Early Longhorns yielded four third-quarter touchdowns to the District 3-3A Division I rival Breckenridge Buckaroos en route to a 35-14 home defeat Friday night.
The game saw more than 200 yards in total penalties as Breckenridge (3-5, 1-2) denied the Longhorns (4-4, 0-3) from grabbing their first district win of the season.
Seeking their first playoff berth since 2008, the Longhorns are currently on the outside looking in at the postseason with games remaining at Jim Ned (6-2, 2-1) next week and home against Wall (5-2, 3-0) in the regular season finale.
Early began Friday’s contest with the ball and was quickly forced to line up for a punt. The snap flew over the head of junior Timmy Smithson into the endzone. To prevent a Breckenridge touchdown, Smithson dove on the ball, which gave the Buckaroos a safety and a two-point lead less than two minutes into the game.
Later in the first quarter, Breckenridge senior Kevin Franco, who rushed for 118 yards during the game, darted in from 5 yards out. One PAT later and the Buckaroos took a 9-0 lead.
The Longhorns quickly rebounded when senior Ryan Trompler, who completed 23 of 41 passes for 262 yards, hooked up with senior Jonathan Morales on a 35-yard scoring pass. Senior Brandon Lombrano booted the PAT to bring Early within two points.
The Buckaroos opened up the second quarter with a six-minute drive that was marred by holding penalties. Breckenridge, which was penalized 125 yards during the game, was forced to punt to the Longhorns, who were unable to gain any positive yardage.
Late in the second quarter, and on the longest run of the night, Breckenridge senior Angel Ruiz busted out for 60 of his total 139 yards. However, another Buckaroo drive was slowed by penalties, including two personal foul calls on one drive.
The first half ended with Early attempting a possible lead changing field goal with one second left on the clock. The ball sailed just outside the upright, allowing Breckenridge to maintain a 9-7 lead going into the half.
The third quarter was the difference maker, with Breckenridge scoring its final 26 points of the game. After scoring on its first offensive possession of the second half, the Buckaroo defense grabbed a Trompler pass for a pick six, giving Breckenridge a 22-7 lead.
Early was unable to score in the third quarter, a problem Breckenridge did not face. Ruiz continued to cause fits for the Longhorn defense, scoring twice in the third, giving the Buckaroos a 35-7 lead heading into the final period.
With only 12 rushing yards in the game, Early was forced to rely on the pass. The final score of the game came when Trompler connected with Smithson on a 31-yard scoring pass.
“They don’t give up,” said Early Head Coach Blake Sandford said of the Longhorns. “They never give up.”
Early senior Ty Schafer led all receivers with 112 yards, followed by Smithson with 100 and Morales with 43.
Early will travel to Tuscola Friday to face the Jim Ned Indians seeking their first district win. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.