Sweetwater’s defense re-corded its second shutout of the season here Friday, as the Mustangs improved to 3-1 overall with a 19-0 win over Early before a large homecoming crowd.
The game was typical for Sweetwater through its first four contests of 2011.
The Mustang defense, as usual, was sound if a bit less spectacular than usual as it held Early (0-4) to 165 yards. The offense, as usual, was inconsistent in producing three scores and 297 yards — the latter equalling Sweetwater’s season high set one week earlier.
Once again, the defense came to the rescue in the first half until the offense could get untracked.
Sweetwater had to turn the ball over on downs af-ter driving to Early’s 34 on its opening series, and the Longhorns promptly drove to the Mustangs’ 11-yard line before having to settle for a 27-yard field goal. But Luis Gaxiola broke through the line to block the kick and preserve a scoreless tie.
At that point, the offense got cranked up.
Sweetwater moved 80 yards in 11 plays, setting up quarterback Taylor Jones’ touchdown run with 10:37 left in the second quarter. But it took a break to avoid disaster, as Jones actually finished off a Ryan Line-baugh run where a fumble bounded right into Jones’ hands and he took the ball to the end zone.
The next score for the Mustangs was more conventional, and came after Sweetwater’s defense finally forced Early to punt after the Longhorns pulled off a successful fake on fourth-and-8 from their 20. Jones returned the punt back to midfield, and a nine-play drive from there increased the lead to 12-0. Linebaugh carried the ball four straight times after Sweetwater reached Early’s 17-yard line, and scored the touchdown from seven yards out.
The defense then stopped the Longhorns after they drove to Sweewater’s 30 to begin the third quarter, and again after Early drove to Sweetwater’s 36 later in the period. But the Mustang offense had trouble moving the ball due to a number of breakdowns, and was una-ble to add to the 12-0 lead until fullback Sam Nemir finally scored on a 14-yard run that capped a short drive with 4:58 to play.
Linebaugh (105 yards on 15 carries) had runs of 14 and 19 yards which led to Nemir’s touchdown, as Sweetwater finally iced the game. A penalty on a punt return forced the Mustangs to start from Early’s 47 after Jones returned the ball all the way to the 22.
Sweetwater finished with 201 yards rushing and 96 passing, most of the latter total coming in the first half when Jones completed 5-of-6 attempts for 72 yards to five different receivers.
Sweetwater had 194 yards and didn’t punt in the first half, but the second half was a different story. The Mustangs drew 95 yards on 12 penalties, eight after intermission, but Early was unable to take advantage.
Despite pitching a shut-out, coach Craig Slaughter said the defensive effort was not up to its earlier standards. “We were missing too many assignments,” he said. “I thought the defense tonight was sub-par even though we had a shutout, and offensively the penal-ties were just awful. In the second half we were con-stantly behind the chains.”
Sweetwater now travels to Midland Greenwood (2-2) this Friday for the first of three straight road games.