Early Longhorns knock off Wall Hawks with fourth-quarter fireworks
EARLY – Daniel Price, the second-year head football coach of the Early Longhorns, used the word “unbelievable” a half dozen times during a postgame interview Friday night. Finally, he said what many Longhorn fans were thinking:
“This is a program-changing win,” Price said after his Longhorns rallied with two long touchdown passes just 43 seconds apart in the fourth quarter and beat the fumble-plagued Wall Hawks 24-14 in the final regular-season game for both teams.
Although they haven’t played every year, the win was Early’s first over Wall since 2008.
Friday’s outcome left Early, Wall and Breckenridge tied for second place in District 3-3A Division I – all with 3-2 records. After applying the point-differential tie-breaker in the games involving the tied teams, Breckenridge emerged as the No. 2 playoff seed from District 3-3A DI and Early as the No. 3 seed.
Wall, which could have finished in the No. 2 spot with a win Friday, slipped all the way to the No. 4 playoff seed. That means Wall (5-4 overall) will face Brock, the top seed from District 4-3A DI and the No. 2-ranked team in the state, next week in bidistrict.
Early (8-2 overall) had the 4-seed last year and lost to Brock 42-7 in bidistrict. This year the Longhorns will open the playoffs with Pilot Point – still a formidable opponent at 7-3.
Wall, which entered the fourth quarter Friday leading Early 14-10, lost four fumbles and all proved costly. After the last two fumbles, the Longhorns took advantage with two long touchdown passes – both on their first play after the Hawks fumbled.
Casey Moseley’s fumble recovery of an errant option pitch stopped a promising Wall drive at the Early 23-yard line with 7:19 to play. On the next play, Early quarterback Jaxyn Price threw a lateral pass to Tucker Hale, who then threw deep for John-Stewart Gordon. Gordon caught the pass beyond midfield and broke an attempted tackle on the way to a 77-yard touchdown pass that gave the Longhorns a 17-14 lead with 7:08 left.
Early needed more points, though. They had to win by 10 or more to move up from the 4 to the 3 seed for the playoffs.
On Wall’s second offensive play after ensuing kickoff, Early’s defensive line penetrated into the Hawks’ backfield, causing a fumble that Chris Fernandez recovered at the Wall 44.
On the next play, Jaxyn Price threw deep for Jeremy Brown, who maneuvered his way past a couple of Wall defenders on the way to a 44-yard touchdown that extended Early’s lead to 24-14 with 6:25 to play.
In just 43 seconds, the game had taken a dramatic turn.
“Our defense played unbelievable in the second half,” Coach Price said. “We stopped Wall from scoring and we forced turnovers.
“We wanted to throw deep on first down after both of those fumbles because we had the momentum, and we knew they’d blitz. I didn’t expect a touchdown, but we wanted to take the momentum from the turnovers and not let them have it back.”
After falling behind 24-14 with 6:25 left, the Hawks’ offense failed to gain a first down. Early took possession, gained three first downs and ran out the clock.
“This win means everything to us as a family,” Gordon said. “Our team is built around family. We call each other brothers. There had to be a reason for playing this season. Our seniors out there walking the field after their last home game, this is what they wanted. It’s great.”
Jaxyn Price, the coach’s son, finished 17-of-26 passing for 185 yards and the score to Brown. Senior Tre Beam rushed for 126 yards and also played linebacker for the Longhorns.
“A win like this is what this team needs so we can move forward with some momentum into the playoffs,” said Beam, who also caught six passes for 57 yards. “We needed to play with the mentality that we could win a big game like this.
“Our defense worked extremely hard this week on each player’s responsibility against their option. We stayed on task. Everybody did their job, and that’s what we had to have to succeed.
Wall’s other two fumbles also were costly. Fullback Dominic Garcia lost control of the football just before crossing the goal line on what would have been a 1-yard touchdown run when the Hawks led 14-10 in the third quarter.
And in the first half, Wall’s opening drive lasted 13 plays and reached the Early 20 before Franky Villarreal’s fumble recovery ended the Hawks’ drive.
“Our defense was amazing,” Jaxyn Price said. “We made some adjustments at the half and came out and kept them from scoring. Kudos to our guys up front for forcing fumbles. They got us going.”
The Hawks scored twice in the second quarter starting with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Gabe Haskins to Jacob Richardson, who finished with seven catches for 100 yards.
Later in the second quarter, Haskins scored on a 1-yard run that finished a 10-play drive and gave the Hawks a 14-10 lead with 3:18 left before halftime.
Early 24, Wall 14
Wall 0 14 0 0 — 14
Early 3 7 0 14 — 24
EAR — Franky Villarreal 22 FG, 1:02
WAL — Jacob Richardson 28 pass from Gabe Haskins (Pierce Jameson kick), 9:48
EAR — Villarreal 9 run (Villarreal kick), 6:39
WAL — Haskins 1 run (Jameson kick), 3:18
EAR — John-Stewart Gordon 77 pass from Tucker Hale (Villarreal kick), 7:08
EAR — Jeremy Brown 44 pass from Jaxyn Price (Villarreal kick), 6:25
First Downs 20 14
Rushes-Yards 48-204 29-128
Passing Yards 102 262
Total Yards 307 390
Comp-Att-Int 9-14-0 19-28-1
Punts 2-47 2-39
Fumbles-Lost 4-4 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-30 4-40
RUSHING: Wall – Dominic Garcia 20-89, Gabe Haskins 17-68, Ryan Quinney 6-20, Andrew Russell 3-28, Dane Reynolds 2-(-)1. Early – Tre Beam 17-126, Franky Villarreal 3-16, Kaleb Ozuna 2-3, Jaxyn Price 7-(-)17.
PASSING: Wall – Haskins 9-14-0 for 103. Early – Price 18-27-1 for 185, Tucker Hale 1-1-0 for 77.
RECEIVING: Wall – Jacob Richardson 7-100, Weston Sims 1-7, Quinney 1-0, Garcia 1-(-)4. Early – Beam 6-57, John-Stewart Gordon 5-115, Jeremy Brown 4-61, Ki Houston 3-29, Villarreal 1-0.
RECORDS: Wall 5-4, 3-2 in District 3-3A Division I. Early 8-2, 3-2.