One of the scariest images the human mind can imagine is the three-headed hydra from Greek mythology. For those not well versed in Greek lore, it’s a dragon with three heads, pretty frightening.
El Campo Ricebird opponents this season have had to experience a version of this on the football field when their three-headed rushing attack plows through defenses.
Every year teams have to prepare for a potent running attack. However, unlike in years past, they have to prepare for three rushers who easily could go over 1,000 yards. Depending on how far the team goes in the playoffs, that actually could happen.
Coming into the season only Shorter had varsity experience, starting last year and rushed for 1,054 yards and 18 touchdowns.
This year you can find Shorter in the backfield and at times with the El Campo’s two other leading running backs in freshman Reuben Owens and Sophmore Johntre Davis.
“We’re a three-headed monster,” Davis said.
With the addition of Davis and Owens, the Ricebirds offense has caught fire scoring over a touchdown per game more compared to last year. El Campo’s offense this season is scoring 31 points a game compared to 22 points on average last season.
“Last year, I felt like I was doing it all back there. Now this year since I’ve got two my brothers with me it’s a much better trio. Our linemen have improved a lot. They’ve been working hard all summer,” Shorter said. “This year we have bigger holes, so we hit it fast enough and we just keep on going.”
“If one of us gets tired the other one can get the ball and run it,” Owens said. “We all can tote the ball and we can all run.”
“It’s been great to watch them grow together as a group,” Condra said. “They’ve really gelled together.”
With a line consisting of four seniors (Cole Riha, Conner Williams, Devon Earls and Edmund Weinheimer) and two sophomores (Kerry North and Juan Leal), and only one new lineman on the starting offensive line, the group meshed and provided plenty of holes for the Ricebirds this season.
“I can’t say enough about the guys up front,” Condra said. “The guys up front allow the three to do what they do. If they don’t block, those holes aren’t there. Those offensive linemen have done a tremendous job and I can’t give them enough credit.”
Through 11 games, which includes Friday night’s playoff game with Fredericksburg, the Ricebirds have run the ball for 3,431 yards. The trio of Ricebird running backs have accounted for all but 225 yards.
“I wasn’t expecting that much, but now that we’ve got that much we’ve got to keep it going,” Shorter said.
While the running backs have produced on a big-time level this season, there is still room to unlock even more yards.
“All three of them do a tremendous job running the football,” Ricebirds Head Coach Wayne Condra said. “But we’ve got to work on becoming better blockers, especially in short-yardage situations. It’s a learning process and we’re getting better at that.”
Despite this being Davis’ first season on varsity, the sophmore finished the season as the district’s second-leading rusher. Davis finished the regular season with 1,372 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“It’s great, that was the milestone that I wanted to reach, but I’m going to go farther than that,” Davis said.
Unlike your neighborhood Sonic, with more than one million different drink combinations, the Ricebirds only have a handful of runs. However, the biggest difference, especially this year, is El Campo has three elite running backs, meaning opposing teams have to prepare for a Sonic drink choices amount of runs.
“For any team that we play, it’s difficult for all three of us to be in the backfield together,” Shorter said. “They don’t know who’s getting, when (we’re) getting it and what play we’re running.”
Davis describes himself as a downhill running back. Owens likes to juke. Shorter doesn’t care and despite his size, he’ll create contact.
While Shorter has the experience out of the group, it was the youth that came through in the Ricebirds bi-district match up last Friday night. Owens and Davis both had 100-yard rushing games and scored all three of the team’s touchdowns.
The Ricebirds have running attack has three more than capable backs to combat just about any situation that they might face on the football field. At any given moment any one of them could go off and have a big run, or game.
In their second-round matchup, the three-headed hydra will get another chance to show off their beastly running attack.
The scariest part of the Ricebirds running back group is that all three are coming back next season.
“It’s great,” Shorter said. “We’re going to work in the summer to get better and stronger. We’re going to do what we do best, come back stronger and harder.”