The El Campo Ricebirds rallied behind their stingy defense to hold off the Fredericksburg Billies 20-14, winning their first playoff game since 2017.
El Campo junior middle linebacker/wide receiver Kaden Alcalais came up large for the Ricebirds, converting a key fourth down in the third quarter and intercepting two passes on the final two Fredericksburg drives to protect the lead.
“(Alcalais) made a big fourth-down catch and the two big interceptions. He made some big plays in the back-field,” Ricebirds Head Coach Wayne Condra said. “He had a really good game, but all those guys played an outstanding game.”
Sophomore running back Johntre Davis led the Ricebirds’ offense with 117 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and freshman running back Rueben Owens added 96 yards on the ground and a touchdown.
The Ricebirds jumped out to an early 13–0 lead, scoring on their first possession with a 37-yard touchdown scamper by Davis. The snap on the extra point was mishandled, and the Birds weren’t able to convert. On the next Fredericksburg series, quarterback Tucker Elliott lost a fumble on the first snap and El Campo scored two plays later on a 14 yard Davis run.
Fredericksburg bounced back quickly, scoring a touchdown on a 10-yard Elliott pass to Judson Beard. Shortly after the Ricebirds fumbled the ball and the Billies scored again on their next series with a four-yard Jarrett Beard touchdown run.
Neither team was able to move the ball effectively in the second quarter. At halftime, the Billies led 14–13.
El Campo struck back with 5:17 to go in the third quarter. After Braden hit Alcalais on a deep out to convert on fourth and 11, Owens took the ball 28-yards to the house. That touchdown would prove to be the game-winner, but not before the Ricebird defense came up big on three key possessions.
Fredericksburg used a 55-yard completion to Jarrett Beard and a couple of strong runs to get to the one-yard line. While it looked like the Billies were about to go back ahead, the defense held with a goal-line stand, stopping Fredericksburg on third and fourth down to force a turnover on downs.
The Billies moved the ball well and threatened to score on their final two drives of the game, but Alcalais intercepted a pass over the middle both times to preserve the victory.
“Our kids played hard,” Condra said. “That second-half, you look at the goal-line stand and the two big interceptions by Kaden (Alcalais), those were great plays.”
El Campo forced three turnovers and held Fredericksburg’s offense to 254 yards after the Billies had averaged 382 yards per game over the course of the season. Elliott, who had thrown for 1,798 yards and rushed for 752 coming into the night, was limited to 164 yards passing and 34 yards rushing.
While the Ricebirds were only able to muster one touchdown in the final three quarters, the defense came through and shut out the Billies in those same three quarters.
With the win, the Ricebirds move on to the second round of the playoffs. El Campo will face Beeville Jones after they beat 44-7. Date and location for the round two game unavailable at press time. Check out the Wharton County Newspaper Sports Facebook Page for round two information.