The El Campo Ricebirds got to test themselves Thursday night. In their only scrimmage of the season they played the Sweeny Bulldogs on the road.
After weeks of practicing against players wearing the same color jerseys, Sweeny and El Campo came out ready for action, with frenzied moments throughout the scrimmage.
Replacing the entire graduated defensive line seemed like a daunting task for El Campo coming into the season. In the scrimmage, the defensive line, along with the entire defense, including backups shined against Sweeny.
“The defense did a great job flying around to the football,” Ricebirds Head Coach Wayne Condra said.
The defensive line consisted of junior tackles Thomas Martinez and Clarence Farrow and ends senior Kade Johansen and sophomore Sloan Hubert. Juniors Juan Leal and Johntre Davis also rotated in and the line caused havoc throughout the scrimmage.
“I was awful proud of the front, they did a great job running side to side,” Condra said. “Our run through from our linebackers was tremendous and the way the secondary came up in support was good.”
During Sweeny’s offensive period, El Campo’s first-team defense allowed one touchdown on a long run to the outside.
The defense after that hardened. Between the remaining offensive period and the two rounds of a running clock, Sweeny only came up with a handful of first downs. The defense was fast and aggressive penetrating into the backfield, blowing up run plays and causing the quarterback to move out of the pocket. Junior corner/quarterback Isaiah Anderson and senior middle linebacker Kaden Alcalais both came up with interceptions.
“I thought we did a lot better in pass coverage, of course, we had the two picks, so that was big,” Condra said. “That’s not something we can look at and say that’s where we need to be, we’re no way near we need to be and our guys understand that.”
The offense had a couple of big plays, but for most of the night, they had a hard time consistently moving forward. During the offensive period of the scrimmage, the first-team offense only grabbed one first down.
While Sweeny’s defense played tough during El Campo’s offensive period and the running clock, they got better as the night moved on, Condra said.
“We’re just working on different things, trying to figure out what we can and can’t do heading into (our first game),” Condra said. “There is a lot of (plays) we hadn’t even touched yet.”
Offensively, Ricebird running backs junior Johntre Davis and sophomore Rueben Owens picked up big yards on the outside. Owens scored the only touchdown of the scrimmage on El Campo’s second drive during the running clock. On the 40-yard line, Owens bounced to the outside and with his hand on Leal’s back. He followed the lineman until he was clear and outran the rest of the Sweny defense for a 60-yard score.
Junior running back Shemar Hudlin came one-yard short of a final touch down on the final play of the night.
With under a minute left to play, Hudlin broke off a long 30-yard rush to put them on the 10-yard line. With seconds left, he ran the ball up the middle, spinning, but he was dragged down right outside the goal line as time expired.
El Campo now moves on to the regular season that starts next Friday. Unlike a normal season, there won’t be a second scrimmage. The Ricebirds can’t tinker and see how they’ll look, everything counts for Friday in Gonzales.
“That’s the hand we were dealt, but I think we learned a lot about ourselves tonight,” Condra said.