The El Campo Ricebirds didn’t have on running back eclipse 100-yards and yet they still shutout the Gonzalez Apaches 35-0 on the road Friday night.
El Campo’s defense a season ago was a force, tossing two shutouts over the course of the year, allowing just over two touchdowns a game on average. Despite replacing the entire four-man front, the defense picked up right where the 2019 team let off, dominating the line of scrimmage and forcing turnovers.
The Ricebirds got contributions in all three phases of the game. The defense allowed 3.3 yards a carry and forced two fumbles. Seniors, Charles Shorter run back a kickoff and Cullen Braden flipped the field a number of times with big punts, and sophomore Emanuel Velazquez was 5-5 on extra points, in special teams. The offense also got four touchdowns, two from Braden and two from sophomore Rueben Owens.
“We really want to excel in all three areas,” Ricbeirds Head Coach Wayne Condra said. “We had a great effort tonight. We made lots of mistakes, but they’re very correctable and we’ve just got to watch the film and see where we got to improve and get after it.”
Seconds into the game, El Campo led 7-0.
Gonzalez won the toss and elected to kickoff to start the game. Shorter got the ball at the 12-yard line, he dodged a couple of tacklers and than sprinted into the endzone.
The Apaches answered with three strong run plays, two resulting in first downs. The defense stiffened and forced a punt, one of many by Gonzalez throughout the night. After the Apaches burst of rushing offense early, the Ricebirds held them to 93 yards on the ground the rest of the way.
“It just took a little bit to get used and our kids were able to make some adjustments and they did a great job,” Condra said.
Gonzalez punted the ball to El Campo leaving them in a bad field position on the eight-yard line. Junior fullback Johntre Davis gave El Campo some breathing room with a 10-yard run. Two plays later, Braden on a quarterback keeper with blockers, sophomore Luke Wingler and junior Juan Leal clearing the way outran the defense for an 85-yard score.
Braden’s night offensively involved three completed passes for 50 yards, including a 40-yard catch to Shorter to set up El Campo’s final score of the first half with seconds left on the clock.
Late in the second quarter, Gonzalez helped by an El Campo penalty made their way to mid-field where the defense again hardened. Looking to punt, Gonzalez fumbled the ball and senior Kaden Alcalais fell on the ball.
With 48 seconds left, El Campo started driving. Braden fumbled but luckily El Campo recovered the ball. Braden made up for the mistake on the next play, launching the ball deep down the field. Shorter jumped up and grabbed the ball getting tackled inside the red zone. Owens on the next play hit the edge on the near side of the field, danced his way through a couple of defenders and scored from 15-yards out, putting El Campo up 21-0 at the half.
The Apaches could not solve El Campo’s defense. In the second half, a fake punt landed them a first down only to give El Campo the ball right back a few plays later.
Owens scored again on a 25-run in the third quarter. Braden capped off the night with another quarterback keeper, this time just from a few feet away from the goal line early in the fourth quarter.
El Campo will have next week off. In two weeks they’ll go back on the road to play Port Lavaca Calhoun in a battle of two of the top 10 teams in the state. Calhoun lost Friday night to Waco La Vega Pirates 20-7.