Now the offense is starting to get some credit.
The fourth-ranked Longhorns totaled 310 rushing yards against Pope on Friday at Cobb Energy/Corky Kell Stadium and won the Region 5AAAA game 35-21.
Chris Gaines ran for 160 yards, and Brian Randolph tacked on another 102 yards and three touchdowns, as the Longhorns jumped to a three-touchdown lead in the first half before thwarting a fierce comeback attempt by the Greyhounds in the second half.
Quarterback Austin Petrik threw for only 97 yards, but most of his completions came during crunch time and he completed seven of eight pass attempts in the second half to help the Longhorns (6-0, 3-0) pull away.
"Not to take anything away (from Pope) - I don't think we played as good on defense as we could, or as we have at times," Kell coach Derek Cook said. "Fortunately, our offense has been carrying us, and there have been three or four games this season where our defense has carried us. Hopefully, that's the sign of a good team."
The Longhorns scored on three straight possessions in the first half to take a 21-0 lead and had 14 first downs in the first half alone. Randolph and Gaines had several big carries when given room between the tackles.
But Pope (4-1, 1-1) made adjustments offensively by throwing Kell's defense off guard with several play fakes and scored 18 unanswered points - on a field goal, two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion - to get back in it.
Kell's offense needed to return to its first-half form after a 16-yard touchdown run by Pope quarterback Holland Frost trimmed the Kell lead to only a field goal.
The Longhorns did just that.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, Gaines broke loose for a 23-yard run to put them at midfield. Three plays later, A.J. Redwine tacked on 26 yards on a reverse to put Kell on the Pope 18, and the Longhorns scored when Petrik found Hunter Marshall for a 4-yard strike.
"They scared us a little bit," Petrik said. "We had to come out and score one more time and put it away. Our offense handled the ball real well and our defense came up big."
A 26-yard field goal by Alex Kviklys got Pope within a touchdown with 8:02 left in the game. Pope needed a stop defensively for a chance to tie it, and it almost did so on third-and-1 on the Kell 45, but Petrik gave the Longhorns a fresh set of downs on a quarterback sneak.
A 38-yard run by Gaines three plays later helped set up a 4-yard touchdown pass from Petrik to Brent Boxberger, giving the Longhorns a two-touchdown lead with less than 3 minutes to play.
Pope worked quickly with Frost throwing a 45-yard bomb to Hank Strmac that put the Greyhounds on the Kell 5 with just over a minute remaining. But three straight penalties by both teams ate too much clock and the Greyhounds eventually ran out of time to score and possibly attempt a 2-point conversion.
"You can't fault our guys effort for one second," Pope coach Matt Kemper said. "Kell's got a good football team. We got a good football team. The No. 1 thing is that we don't quit and our guys didn't."
Kell's offense did little wrong in the first half after losing a fumble on its first play of its first drive.
Its first score came on a 10-play, 91-yard drive that ended with a Randolph 4-yard touchdown after Pope turned the ball over deep in Kell territory. The Longhorns struck again on their next drive in the second quarter when Randolph barreled in from 3 yards out. After forcing Pope to punt after a nine-play drive, Randolph scored this third touchdown on a 25-yard sweep to give Kell a 21-0 cushion.
Afterwards, Pope started picking Kell's stingy defense apart. Frost threw for 249 yards and a touchdown and rushed for an additional 81. Garrett Brown led with 107 receiving yards.
The Greyhounds got on the board late in the first half on a Kviklys 33-yard field goal. They cut the lead to 10 points when Frost hit Brown for an 18-yard touchdown, followed by a successful 2-point conversion. After Pope forced Kell to punt for the first and only time, Frost scored from 9 yards out on a fake to make it 20-18.
"We came out the first half a little slow, but we made adjustments," Frost said. "We ran the ball a lot better (in the second half) and the offensive line stepped it up. We missed a couple opportunities, but we played well."