EARLY — The 2019 season opener didn't go as planned for the Early Longhorns, who will attempt to rebound and notch their first victory of the year against the Coleman Bluecats at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Longhorn Stadium.
The Longhorns are coming off a 44-7 defeat at the hands of the Bangs Dragons on their own turf, while Coleman had its hands full as well in a season-opening 52-0 drubbing against Jim Ned — a District 3-3A Division I rival of Early's.
“The takeaway is we better roll our sleeves up and get back to work,” Early fifth-year head coach Blake Sandford said in regard to the Longhorns' performance against Bangs. “Everybody's going to prepare for us, everybody's going to be a test for us, and we better understand that losing is unacceptable.”
Early mustered just one touchdown and 131 total yards against Bangs — 89 through the air on 10 of 20 passing and 42 on the ground on 27 carries. Defensively, the Longhorns yielded 367 yards — 245 rushing and 122 passing.
“Not being successful at the line of scrimmage was one of the problems, along with not executing, not getting first downs and not keeping the chains moving,” Sandford said. “We've got to get better at that, and that's a coaching deal, too. We're got to get better as coaches and make sure these kids are prepared.”
Quarterback Brent Grooms completed 10 of 20 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown to returning all-state receiver Timmy Smithson, who grabbed four receptions for 66 yards. On the ground, Cale Wade rushed for 18 yards on five carries, Alex Jacobs added 16 yards on seven attempts and Tre Beam tallied 10 yards on eight rushes.
Defensively, leading tacklers included Beam with 16, Ryan Jones with 12, Braden Schwartz, Tyson Tyler and Reece Bolton with six apiece and Sebastian Perez with five tackles and a fumble recovery.
Lineman Kannon Vogt dislocated a shoulder during the Bangs game, while Jesson Tarrant — Early's leading rusher from a year ago — was held out with a lingering injury. Both players' status for the Coleman game was questionable earlier in the week.
As far as improvements this Friday night, Sandford said, “We have to have a tougher mentality in terms of blocking and tackling, that's the main two things I want to see this week.”
In Coleman's loss to Jim Ned, the Bluecats found themselves in a 20-0 hole after one quarter, down 39-0 at halftime and the Indians tacked on two more touchdowns after intermission.
Coleman's defense was gashed for 449 yards as Jim Ned rushed for 225 yards on 28 carries — an average of 7.8 yards per tote — and completed 11 of 17 passes for 224 yards.
Offensively, the Bluecats committed six turnovers — five interceptions and a fumble — and were sacked twice, with six additional tackles made behind the line of scrimmage.
Despite the Bluecats' Week 1 woes, Sandford said the Longhorns are in no position to take Coleman lightly.
“They struggled against Jim Ned but they're going to be tough to beat,” Sandford said. “They're going to be good, they're going to be big and they're going to be hungry. They're downhill, they tackle well, they come right at you and they're physical. But I'm more worried about us and how we respond. We need to have a short memory, respond to adversity and respond to the challenge. We better come out and have a great week of work and come out Friday ready to play.”
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Early is a 21-point favorite.