TOLAR — A 31-point underdog according to Harris Ratings Weekly, the Early Longhorns started their first win streak of the 2019 campaign with a 19-18 victory over the Tolar Rattlers in their first road test of the season Friday night.
After suffering losses to Tolar in three consecutive seasons, the Longhorns were finally able to upend the Rattlers. A victory slipped away from Early a year ago as the Longhorn led 7-2 heading into the fourth period before Tolar rallied with a pair of touchdowns for a 16-7 victory.
Friday's win came on the heels of a 42-14 triumph over Coleman, as the Longhorns continue to build positive momentum following their season-opening setback to Bangs.
“They wanted to build and capitalize on the things they did well in the previous game and played as hard as they could,” Early fifth-year head coach Blake Sandford said of his team's performance. “I was really proud of their effort and attitude and the commitment to what we're trying to do was really, really good.”
Early (2-1) trailed Tolar (1-2) by a 18-13 count heading into the fourth period where a 25-yard touchdown scramble by Brent Grooms — his second rushing touchdown of the game — provided the deciding points for the Longhorns.
“Brent just made a good decision with the ball and had excellent downfield blocking,” Sandford said. “We kept moving the chains that drive and had quality ball control. I felt like our kids were in better shape and with the playmakers we have on our team and the o-line blocking, it just worked out really well.”
Early finished with 371 yards of total offense — 205 passing and 166 rushing. Grooms was the spark on offense, completing 11 of 14 passes — a 79 percent success rate — with a touchdown, while rushing for 57 yards and two more scores.
“He's done a really good job of managing the game,” Sandford said of Grooms. “On the passing end he made great decisions trying to find ways to keep us alive and did a good job getting the ball out to receivers. They had a good pass rush but I thought we managed that well with our offensive personnel. He also did a great job rushing the ball, it was pretty balanced with his efforts.”
All-state receiver Timmy Smithson caught six passes covering 144 yards and scored once, while Jeramiah Fowler finished with three grabs for 51 yards. Carlos Moreno and Alex Jacobs each caught a 5-yard pass.
On the ground, Tre Beam led the Longhorns with 76 yards rushing while Jacobs chipped in 33.
Early trailed 7-0 in the first period when a 65-yard pass from Grooms to Smithson knotted the score. At the break, the Longhorns trailed 15-13 following a 32-yard scamper by Grooms.
In the second half, Early's defense surrendered just one field goal in the third period. Overall, the Rattlers were limited to 228 total yards — 139 rushing and 89 passing.
“Tolar scored first and scored pretty early and the kids did a great job responding after that to shut them down,” Sandford said. “I'm really excited about the progress the defense has made from the first game to this game. We held them in check in the second half and really turned it on. I thought we were in great condition and really got after it.”
Wesley Miller completed just of 5 of 15 passes for Tolar, though one was a 74-yard scoring toss to Brett Jackson. Braegan Berry rushed for a team-best 82 yards, Brock Owens added 30 and Miller finished with 27 on the ground. Seth Carroll caught a team-high two passes for 11 yards
The Longhorns are back on the road next week as they visit Hamilton (2-1), which is coming off a 56-14 victory over Moody.