Grinding Out Yards

El Campo’s senior quarterback Cullen Braden is tackled by a Wharton Tiger after running for a first down. Later in the drive, Braden would score on a 33-yard run to give El Campo a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. The Ricebirds now 2-1 on the season have one more game next Friday against St. Thomas Catholic before they start district play.

Touchdowns were the story of the game, Friday night at Ricebird Stadium in the 112th edition of the River Battle.

The El Campo Ricebirds and the Wharton Tigers combined to score 90 points between them in a game that lasted over three and a half hours.

The Ricebirds ground attacked was hard to slow as they defeated their rival Tigers 55-35.

Wharton scored first and last, but Ricebirds offense dominated for most of the game. Behind El Campo’s offensive line of Hal Erwin at tight end,  Kerry North at tight tackle, Juan Leal at tight guard, center Jack Dorotik, Matthew Sosa and Luke Wenglar both getting reps at slit guard and Lucas Pfeil at split tackle, the Ricebirds won the point of attack throughout the game. The offensive line created push and opened the holes for eight rushing touchdowns.

“We did good and we pulled through,” North said. “(The line) is getting way better. We’re getting better at working together.”

Even with El Campo’s rushing attack churning out yards, the Tigers wouldn’t go away.

Wharton trailing 28-14 to start the second half, made things interesting after a score by Tigers’ James Jones.

Four plays into El Campo’s first drive of the second half, they fumbled the ball. Jones picked up the ball, cut through the Ricebirds offense on his way for a 60-yard fumble recovery to tighten the game to 28-20 after a completed extra point. The scoop and score was the second on the night for Wharton’s defense.

El Campo answered Wharton’s score instantly.

Wharton pinned El Campo deep following the kick making them start on the 25-yard line. After a big gain by El Campo’s Rueben Owens for a first down. Ricebird Johntre Davis finished off the drive with a 60-yard score after busting through the line.

El Campo pooched the kick to Wharton, but they fumbled it giving it right back to the Ricebirds offense. El Campo slowly marched down the field and after a 11-play drive capped off by an eight-yard Owens touchdown the Ricebirds pulled out ahead 42-20.

“We started off good, but we’re just not consistent right now,” Wharton Head Coach Chad Butler said. “You’ve got to be consistent and mentally tough. It’s not going to be easy and every play is important and once we figure that out then we’ll be a pretty good team.”

Both teams continued to trade scores down the stretch. While Wharton scored, they couldn’t overcome the lead that El Campo had built.

“I thought offensively we came out and did the things we needed to do to be successful,” El Campo Head Coach Wayne Condra said. “Defensively they’ve got a tremendous football team. Their offense is very explosive. Again that’s the first time we’ve seen a throwing team all year and we’ve got to learn from our mistakes.”

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