The Calhoun Sandcrabs shocked the El Campo Ricebirds early Friday night at Ricebird Stadium. However, a strong second half propelled the Ricbeirds over the Sandcrabs 49-35 in a back and forth heavyweight fight.
A season ago, the Sandcrabs (2-1) stopped the Ricebirds (2-1) twice and won in a high-scoring game. The script was nearly the same Friday, but instead, it was the Ricebirds who came up with the timely stops.
“We battled back and made some adjustments on the offense and defense in the second half and got some stops early,” El Campo Head Coach Chad Worrell said. “I want to focus on the positive. We overcame adversity and we scored 49 points (with four turnovers). I’m super happy with the way kids competed. There were times tonight (when) they could have ducked their heads and kind of gave up, but we battled back.”
El Campo’s special teams allowed the Sandcrabs offense three extra possessions on muffed returns. But it wasn’t as costly, with the Ricebirds defense forcing punts on two of those extra possessions. El Campo’s offense allowed the Sandcrabs a score on a fumble that they picked up and ran the ball back for a touchdown.
The Ricebirds fought throughout the night, leading by six points, 41-35 after a missed extra point. Calhoun took over with seven minutes left in the game.
The Sandcrabs on third and short in their territory got a big run from their lead back, but it was called back on an illegal motion. Backed up five yards and facing a third and 10, the Sandcrabs connected on a big pass play down the sideline, moving them to first and goal on the eight-yard line. Calhoun inched the ball closer and closer, draining time off the clock, but a false start backed them up to third and 11.
Calhoun’s lead back with a strong run up the middle nosed the ball down to the two-yard line. Facing a fourth and two, the Sandcrabs gave him the ball once again. The Ricebirds defense led by seniors Jacob Lopez, Juan Leal and Kerry North were there to gobble him up and keep him out of the end zone.
El Campo with the ball in the shadow of their endzone needed a first down or two to ice the game. Ricebird junior running back Rueben Owens II on the first play stepped through the line and accelerated past the defense for a 98-yard touchdown essentially ending the game up two scores with under one minute left.
The Ricebirds offense put up nearly 500 yards with 411 coming on the ground. Owens had 269 yards on 16 carries scoring five times. He added another through the air in on a trick play connecting with senior Matthew Stewart for a 39-yard score. Senior Johntre Davis had 147 on 10 carries, scoring once.
“(We) scored 49 points against a good defensive football team,” Worrell said.
The Ricebirds three-game homestand has come to an end and next Friday they’ll be on the road to face the Wharton Tigers (0-3).