By Angel Verdejo and Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
Part of the reason Gatesville coach Kyle Cooper wanted to face a team like Brownwood - the state's top team in Class 3A - was to expose his own team's weaknesses. Those flaws could then be worked on for district games down the road and a run to the postseason.
What Brownwood showed the Hornets on Friday in its 56-19 win was Gatesville's need to improve on special teams. Brownwood finished with 255 return yards, with two big chunks of that total coming on Jaxon Shipley punt retuns for touchdowns. Shipley, the Texas commitment at receiver and younger brother of former Longhorn receiver Jordan Shipley, had a 57-yard return in the first quarter and added an 80-yarder in the second.
"Special teams was an area of big concern," Cooper said. "Now we restack, go to work this week and get better."
Gatesville punted four times, but by comparison, had 121 return yards on three Brownwood punts.
When looking at positives, Cooper mentioned the Hornet secondary - Shipley had just three catches - and running game (Gatesville outran Brownwood 136-129), along with Gatesville's continued fight in the one-sided game.
"We just have to find things we do best and get after it," Cooper said.
Big win for Badgers
The Lampasas Badgers are getting back to their winning ways.
At least in season openers, that is.
Lampasas, with its 27-26, come-from-behind win over Manor, gave the program consecutive season-opening victories. That last happened in the 2005-06 seasons, when the Badgers won seven straight openers.
The streak stopped in 2007 when Lampasas lost to Waco University. That, unfortunately, started a 20-game losing streak, which Lampasas snapped in last year's opener (a 21-14 win over Manor).
Manor scored a go-ahead touchdown with 8:20 left to play Friday, but Lampasas answered. The Badgers drove 86 yards on 19 plays, with quarterback Colton Perkins going in from 1 yard out on fourth down as the clock ran out.
"For a lot of them, this was their first time on the varsity," Lampasas coach Joey McQueen said. "And playing at Manor at a nice stadium was a big win for us. It's starting off the season the right way."
Salado can't hold first-half momentum
With a furious 20-0 scoring effort in the second quarter, aided by the passing of senior quarterback Cole Brentham, the Salado Eagles had momentum and a two score lead (26-14) before the break Friday.
Then halftime came and ruined it as Marlin rallied to outscore Salado 28-0 over the final 24 minutes of the game - scoring twice in each quarter - to win 42-26.
It was that second-half collapse - compounded with three second-half touchdown runs by Bulldogs fullback Wilford Sanders and a couple of costly turnovers (including a pivotal 88-yard fumble return) - that ultimately had first-year Eagles coach Glenn Talbott scratching his head.
"The kids were excited (at halftime), and I told them, 'This is not a halftime game - it's a fourth quarter game and you can't celebrate at halftime,'" Talbott said. "I think our kids grew up and hopefully they learn something from it."
Another big problem was Salado's lack of any sort of running game, as Marlin limited the Eagles to just 54 yards on 30 carries.
"They got penetration and we had a few busts along the offensive line - they just stopped us," Talbott said. "... We were there, we were close, we were like one or two blocks away and it would've been a completely different game."
No turnovers equals win for Florence
There were many things Florence coach Paul Smith knew he had to do this season for the Buffaloes to improve. But none more important that getting the team to commit fewer turnovers.
Last season, the Buffaloes (1-0) lost seven fumbles and had 25 interceptions.
However, Friday against Bruceville-Eddy (0-1), they had none. Doak Hensley threw 39 passes without an interception and the Buffaloes never coughed up the ball. Last season, in Florence's 35-20 win, they had two.
So far, things look like they might be corrected. If so, the Buffaloes could be more dangerous than anyone realizes.
By the numbers
31.2 - average number of yards of the 11 touchdowns scored between Gatesville and Brownwood, which included an 80-yard punt return, 67-yard pass and five scores of less than 10 yards.
52 - difference in rushing attempts between Lampasas (74) and Manor (22) in the Badgers' 27-26 win. Lampasas attempted - and completed - just two passes.
208 - difference in rushing yards between Salado (54) and Marlin (262) as the Bulldogs' ground game propelled them to a 42-26 rally over the Eagles.
132 of 198 - Number of receiving yards totaled by Emilio Ramirez out of the total number of passing yards. If Florence is going to score, it will need to find a second option, especially if running back Michael Ramirez does not return soon from injury.
Mexia at Gatesville, Friday - These teams play for the seventh straight season, with Mexia holding a 4-2 advantage and winning the last three.
Austin Travis at Lampasas, Friday - The Badgers try to win consecutive nondistrict games for the first time since 2005, when Lampasas went 5-0 before district play.
Salado at Rockdale, Friday - The Eagles try to get their first win under Glenn Talbott, against Rockdale, which is 9-0 in nondistrict play since 2008.
Florence at Holland, Friday - The Buffaloes travel to 1A Holland (0-1) to face the Hornets for the first time since 2001.
Staff writer Alex Byington contributed to this report.