Kyle Cooper is tired of excuses.
Since Gatesville’s remarkable 2012 season ended, all the talk surrounding his program has centered around its inexperience. After graduating 28 seniors from a team that went undefeated through 13 games, the Hornets were basically rebuilding from scratch entering this season.
Gatesville’s head coach looked past some losses and mistakes from his untested roster during the nondistrict schedule, but after producing a 45-27 victory at Lampasas, the time for excuses is over.
“We told them whether they were 0-5 or 5-0, it was not about those first (games),” Cooper said. “We’ve just got to get better. We knew we were a young football team, but its time to stop saying that. We’ve got six games under our belt now, and we either will or we won’t.”
Against the Badgers, the defending District 8-3A champions looked like veterans on the field, especially on offense.
The Hornets produced touchdowns on all but two drives, reaching the end zone on seven consecutive possessions after an interception inside the red zone ended their first drive. The only other time Gatesville did not score was late in the game as quarterback Jeff Speer took a knee twice to run out the clock.
Perhaps no player has endured more scrutiny than Speer, a sophomore who replaced last year’s district MVP Cole Edmiston under center. Outside of his early interception, however, Speer played an extremely efficient game, completing 12 of 18 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown to go along with 62 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Coupled with a relentless ground attack, spearheaded by senior Jake Kee’s 213 yards and three touchdowns, Gatesville’s offense was simply too much for Lampasas to handle.
“They are very explosive,” Badgers head coach Brian Emerson said. “(Speer and Kee) were really good, and they played very, very well tonight. ... We had to match them drive for drive or get a stop, and we didn’t do either one.”
The teams traded scores for a majority of the game, with Lampasas tying the game at 27-27 on quarterback Logan Irvin’s 6-yard touchdown run with 3:09 remaining in the third quarter. Then the Hornets took complete control, scoring three unanswered touchdowns, including two from Kee.
“This was our first district game, and we hadn’t done too good in our preseason,” Kee said. “So this is where it starts. We’re working for another district title, and they are going to have to come get it from us.”
After averaging 322.2 yards and 20.8 points per game through nondistrict, the Hornets finished the game with 497 total yards, and four players reached the end zone, with Kee and Tariq Miller, who had eight carries for 41 yards, both scoring twice.
“I thought we grew up in the last two weeks,” Cooper said. “We kind of challenged them, and they stepped up to the plate. I’m just really proud of their efforts.”
Salado posts stellar rushing performance in win over Florence
For the Eagles (1-5, 1-2), Friday was a night of the rarities.
At home, Brent Graham won his first game as a high school coach. Salado won its first game of the season.
And the Eagles compiled 24 percent of their season rushing yards.
On Friday, Salado posted 117 of this season’s 496 ground yards, led by running back Ryan Simmons’ 129 yards on 17 carries.
With 2,503 total yards throughout six games, Salado sits only 82 yards behind District 13-2A leader Cameron Yoe and 45 yards behind McGregor.
By a margin of 34-12, the Eagles also used McLane Carter’s arm to beat the Buffaloes (1-5, 0-3), as the junior completed 13 of 28 passes for 250 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“To be honest with you, we feel like every week is a battle,” Graham said before the game. “Our district is one of the best districts in the state of Texas in 2A, so anybody can beat anybody in any given week.”
Lometa’s road is about to get rough
Ending its two-game losing streak was the easy part. Now, Lometa must somehow find a way to construct a winning streak.
Playing in one of the most difficult districts in six-man football, the Hornets’ playoff hopes ride on how they conclude their season as three consecutive games against state-ranked opponents loom on the schedule.
Luckily for the Lometa, it picked up a crucial win against Rochelle on Friday.
Lometa jumped out to a 54-34 by halftime and held on for an 82-60 victory on the road, avenging last season’s 66-46 loss at home and giving the Hornets their first district victory since beating Rochelle in the 2011 regular season finale.
The momentum could prove important this week as Lometa hosts No. 23 Zephyr. After that, the Hornets travel to No. 17 Santa Anna before concluding District 9-Six Man, Division I play at home against No. 8 May.
The Tigers and Mountaineers were each ranked in the top 10 entering last Friday’s district opener, but then-No. 6 May narrowly defeated then-No. 9 Santa Anna 38-31.
- Gatesville (3-3, 1-0 8-3A) at Burnet (4-2, 0-1): The Hornets have not lost a district game since 2011, but will receive a stiff test against the Bulldogs, whose two losses have come by a combined 10 points.
- Lampasas (2-4, 0-1 8-3A) at Llano (2-4, 0-1): Going back to last season, these teams are a combined 1-11 in district play, with the Yellowjackets claiming the lone victory, 20-13 at Lampasas last year.
- Little River-Academy (2-4, 0-3 13-2A, Div. I) at Florence (1-5, 0-3): Friday’s loser will no longer have company in the league basement. Florence won 40-20 on the road last season.
- No. 23 Zephyr (5-1) at Lometa (5-2, 1-0 9-6M, Div. I): The Hornets prepare for their second state-ranked opponent in three games after No. 25 Knox City won 64-16 at Lometa two weeks ago.
- Troy (4-2, 2-1 13-2A, Div. I) at Salado (1-5, 1-2), 7:30 p.m. Friday: Salado will look for consecutive victories after picking up its first win of the season against Florence.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 7.5 — Gatesville’s yards per snap against Lampasas on Friday in a 45-27 win.
- 4:1 — Approximate ratio of passing yards to rushing yards compiled by Salado this season.
- 30 — Total yards gained by Lampasas on its final three possessions Friday.
- 3 — Combined losses (in 14 games) for Lometa’s next three opponents.
- 5 — Combined touchdowns by Salado QB McLane Carter (2) and RB Ryan Simmons (3) in Friday’s 34-12 win over Florence.