El Campo Ricebird football might be back. The Ricebirds Friday night at home came an unsportsmanlike penalty away from shutting out the Rockport-Fulton Pirates, they went on to win 34-6.
A week after giving up 14 points to Texas City, the Ricebirds held the Pirates, who went three rounds deep in the playoffs last season, to one score.
“We made some big plays (on defense),” Ricebirds Head Coach Wayne Condra said. “The difference between last week and this week, I thought we were much better tacklers. That’s a big key. You want to see that improvement from week one to week two.”
Defensively they held the Pirates to one first down through their first three offensively possesions. Junior Nathan Willis and sophomore Johntre Davis had big tackles for loss early, keeping the Pirates in third and long on two of the first three drives.
With the defense holding their end, the offense ran through the Pirates.
Despite being down to their third-string center, the Ricebirds offensive line opened up holes for everyone who touched the ball. The offense scored on four of their five drives in the first half. Overall, the Ricebirds put up more than 400 yards of offense, with 359 yards coming on the ground.
“We were getting to our blocks,” senior linemen Cole Rhia said. “As long as they held on to the ball, we were going to make yards no matter what.”
The Ricebirds offense started with the ball and like classic El Campo football, ran the ball. It was a slightly inauspicious start, with they’re first two plays netting them a five-yard loss. However, it would be one of the last losses on the night. Freshmen Reuben Owens broke off back-to-back 15-yard runs, pushing the Ricebirds who started on the 41, deep into Rockport-Fulton’s territory. Davis followed with his own 15-yard carry. Davis capped off the drive with a five-yard run for the score.
Davis finished the night with a team-high 166 yards on 16 carries. Owens followed with his second straight 100-yard outing with 101 yards on 12 carries. The Ricebirds running backs as a group ran the ball for 7.8 yards a carry.
Leading 20-0, the Pirates got on the board with a seven-play drive. After an initial first down on a 20-yard pass play, the Ricebirds with a Deshard Owens sack were about to force the Pirates to punt. However, a hit after the whistle kept the drive alive. On the next play, the Rockport-Fulton quarterback kept the ball and ran up the middle for a 20-yard score. A missed extra-point made the game 20-6.
With half-time nearing, the Pirates tried to catch the Ricebirds sleeping, attempting an onside kick. The Ricebirds recovered the ball and three plays later Clay Jung connected with Griffen Croix for a wide-open, 43-yard walk into the endzone touchdown.
In the second half, the Ricebirds took the football off the gas but they still scored on their first drive of the third quarter to give them a 34-6 lead. El Campo used a long, 15 play drive, to help them milk most of the time of the clock in the third quarter, Jung converted the score on a one-yard quarterback keeper.
With the win, the Ricebirds start the season 2-0, just like last year.
“We’re in the same boat this time last year,” Condra said. “We got to come back and really gear up. We’ve got the defending state champs coming to town next week. It’s going to be another four-quarter battle and it starts (Saturday).”
Cuero will be looking to make a bounce back in week three when they play the Ricebirds after they fell at home to Yoakum 40-21.