The El Campo Ricebirds (1-1) can’t think about their week two loss too long because a tough Calhoun Sandcrabs (2-0) await them this Friday night at Ricebird Stadium.
Working in the Ricebirds’ favor in week three. Sandcrabs won’t go to the air very often. While simpler to defend, the complexity of the Sandcrabs offense will be tracking who has the football, with Calhoun running the triple-option attack. One mistake in coverage will allow the running back or running quarterback to pick up big yards.
El Campo defensively got a taste of the triple option before their first scrimmage, practicing defending it, thinking La Grange might run some of it.
“It’s assignment football and you’ve got to be disciplined,” El Campo Head Coach Chad Worrell said. “They do it well, coach (Richard) Whitaker has been there a long time and the system has been in place for almost 20 years and they do a great job running it. The linemen are super impressive upfront and their quarterback doesn’t make mistakes.”
What El Campo won’t see when the Sandcrabs come to town is Steve Johnson or Jarius Stewart, both All-State players who graduated and signed to D1 football. The duo rushed for 331 yards last season against El Campo.
Through the first two games of the season, the Ricebirds are allowing four yards per rushing attempt. El Campo’s defense is getting many tackles for loss and no gain, but every once in awhile, a runner has been able to beat them to the edge for big plays.
Worrell entering the season, said the defense would continue to get tweaked likely until district play. The loss to the Chargers in week two showed him they still have room to go in learning his new scheme.
“We saw a plethora of formations and motions that was really meant to confuse us (last week),” Worrell said. “I would consider those growing pains. When we got lined up right, we stopped them and that’s what we showed the kids on Saturday morning (during flim). When we didn’t, we didn’t stop them.”
El Campo allowed 420 yards on the ground to the Sandcrabs last season, but they hung in throughout the game matching them score for score.
The offense, also running a new system this season, was hard to stop in week one. While limited in week two, Worrell felt the team was closer to the team that scored 56 against Gonzales when looking over the film.
“We were one block away, one read away, one whatever away, our linemen played really good in the first half I thought,” Worrell said. “They were good enough defensively and had enough speed that if you made one mistake they were going to make that tackle and keep a big play from happening.”
The Sandcrabs through two games this season is allowing 24.5 points per game, which is nearly on pace for the 23.6 points a game they gave up last year. Their defense returns four all-district players, three first-teamers in seniors, defensive end Esteban Cruz, inside linebacker Kirk Stringham and cornerback Adrian Chambers.
El Campo’s offensive attack found a new wrinkle last week with junior Rueben Owens II operating the Wildbird. El Campo has run the formation since last year, sparingly, but last week was the first time Owens attempted and completed a pass.
The Ricebirds passing game led by senior Isaiah Anderson finished with 114 yards. Anderson completed five passes for 103 yards.
“(The Sandcrabs) are a really gap sound 3-4 defense,” Worrell said. “Their guys are big and physical and they run through gaps and spilling (backs) to the outside linebackers and safeties. We’re just going to have to fit up everything, stay on our blocks and hopefully pop some big plays against them.”
This will be the final of a three-game homestand to start the season for the Ricebirds.