The El Campo Ricebirds (8-1, 4-1) knew they were going to get the Bay City Blackcats (0-9, 0-6) best punch Friday night at Memorial Stadium. The Ricebirds weathered everything Bay City had but pulled away in the second half beating them 40-14, securing El Campo a spot in the playoffs after missing it last season.
With the bye next week for Bay City and no playoffs in sight, Friday night, the Blackcats came out and took it to the Ricebirds sending them into the locker room trailing 14-13.
“We came into this game thinking they were 0-8 and they were going to lay down, give up and just let us win,” sophomore defensive back Isaiah Anderson said. “We went into half-time and talked about the changes we needed to make.”
El Campo started the game hot, stopping Bay City on their first drive with sophomore middle linebacker Jacob Lopez recovering a fumble near the red zone. The Ricebirds offense marched down the field and scored on a freshman Rueben Owens 10-yard run, capping off a six-play 79-yard drive.
On the following possession, Bay City picked up two quick first downs. The Ricebird defense stiffened and after back-to-back sacks from Dontavian Bluntson and Conner Williams and an incomplete pass, the Blackcats were forced to punt. The Ricebirds on the punt were called on a roughing the kicker and the drive stayed alive.
Bay City ended up scoring on the drive but not before converting on a fourth and four and picking up another first down on a facemask penalty by the Ricebirds.
The Ricebirds next drive was bitten by false starts and they’d turn the ball over on downs. The defense gave the offense the ball right back by stopping Bay City on a four and one. Three plays later, the Ricebirds went back ahead after a junior Charles Shorter powerful five-yard run and the game was 13-7 following a missed extra point.
With four minutes left in the half, the Blackcats took the ball from the 38 and ran and passed their way neat the red zone. The Birds held Bay City and forced a fourth and long, but Carlos Lara was able to find a receiver breaking over the middle for a touchdown to pull ahead before the half.
“They were beating us at halftime,” senior tight guard Cole Riha said. “We’re a four quarter football team. We came out and showed them went we had and we came out with the win.”
The Ricebirds got the ball to start the second half and drove the ball downfield with run, after run, after run. After a six-play, all run drive by sophomore Johntre Davis, El Campo pulled back ahead.
Bay City went three and out on the next possession. While punting, the punter, fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Ricebirds and two plays later the game was 26-14.
It only got worse for Bay City. On the ensuing kickoff, the Ricebirds pooched the kick, Bay City wasn’t ready and junior Kaden Alcalais recovered the ball, his second on the season. Four plays later, Davis on a from three yards out jumped into the endzone to score and in the span of minutes off the game clock, the Ricebirds went from trailing to up 33-14.
The Ricebirds in the second half got big runs from anyone who touched the ball. Outside of El Campo’s lead three running backs, senior Rance Thornton and junior Kyle Balcar both ripped off long 20 plus yards runs.
“We’re making the wholes for them to run through,” Riha said. “We’re the same offensive line from last year. We’ve (continued) to learn throughout the season.”