GATESVILLE — Gatesville fans knew they had a quarterback to be excited about this preseason.
On opening night, Hornets QB Jett Truss lived up to those expectations.
Truss passed for 236 yards and four touchdowns as he kept the Hornets ahead of Connally for the duration and Gatesville claimed a 38-14 victory on Friday night at McKamie Stadium.
“(Truss has) been doing it a long time,” Connally coach Shane Anderson said. “He’s a great player. If you keep up with Jett Truss, he plays everything and everything he does, he does it at 100 miles an hour and he’s a great leader.”
Central Texas high school football is a haven for playmakers.
Truss connected with wide receiver Derrick Bayer five times for 94 yards and three touchdowns in Bayer’s first game back after missing the 2016 season with an ACL tear.
“Great to have (Bayer) back out there,” Gatesville coach Kyle Cooper said. “He’s a threat and we’ve always known that. By the end of the year, the state will know that.”
Connally (0-1) cut Gatesville’s lead to 10 points when quarterback Gaylon Glenn threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Hadden with 5:41 left in the third quarter.
But the Cadets couldn’t get any closer and the Hornets (1-0) added a couple of insurance touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Truss threw an 18-yard scoring pass to Zach Mueller to extend Gatesville’s lead to 31-14 with 6:59 left. Gatesville running back T.J. Miller provided the final tally when he ran five yards for a touchdown.
Gatesville’s passing attack clicked early as Truss hit Mueller for a 53-yard gain on the Hornets’ first offensive play of the contest.
After Mueller moved Gatesville deep into Connally territory, Truss made the drive count five plays later when he tossed to Bayer for a 14-yard touchdown. Truss’s scoring pass to Bayer, a developing trend, gave the Hornets a 7-0 lead with 8:18 left in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, the Hornets defense frustrated Connally’s offense in the first quarter. Gatesville forced the Cadets to go three-and-out on their first two possessions. Hornets defensive tackles Owen Sibley and Austin Richardson and safety Will Carroll each posted a tackle for loss in the first quarter.
Connally managed a first down on its third offensive series, but Carroll recovered a fumble to stop that drive for Gatesville.
The Hornets needed just two plays to score on their second offensive series. Running back Michael Davis ran 12 yards for a first down, then Truss went over the top of the Connally defense to find Bayer for a 44-yard touchdown.
Gatesville kicker David Saldivar nailed a 30-yard field goal to cap the Hornets third possession as they surged to a 17-0 lead with 10:51 left before halftime.
But Connally slowed down Gatesville’s onslaught at that point.
Cadets linebacker Joseph Crosby blocked Gatesville punter Bayer’s attempt midway through the second quarter, setting up Connally at the Gatesville 30.
Cadets freshman quarterback Kavian Gaither entered the game at that point and directed Connally’s first scoring drive of the season.
Gaither completed a crucial third-and-eight pass to Damien Smith to give Connally a first-and-goal at the Hornets’ 8. Then Gaither sliced through the Gatesville defense for an eight-yard touchdown run that cut the Hornets’ lead to 17-7 with 3:28 to go before halftime.
“We dug ourselves in a hole and couldn’t get out,” Anderson said. “I was real proud of how our kids played and how they kept their composure.”
Gatesville held on to momentum at the break, however, as Truss directed a 14-play scoring drive that marched 70 yards. Truss capped it with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Bayer for the duo’s third TD of the half.
Truss completed 11 of 21 passes for 189 yards in the first half.