El Campo and Bay City this Friday will play in the 115th edition of the oldest rivalry in Texas when the El Campo Ricebirds (7-1, 3-1) travel down south to play the Bay City Blackcats (0-8, 0-5).
While this battle on paper doesn’t look like it’s something the Ricebirds should be fearful of, in a rivalry that dates back to the early 1900s, anything can and will happen. With the playoffs not locked up for the Ricebirds, the Blackcats can play the role of spoiler. Friday night will also be the final game of the season for Bay City, so the Ricebirds are very wary and they aren’t looking past the Blackcats.
“They are 0-8 this year, but that doesn’t make a difference,” Ricebirds junior quarterback Cullen Braden said. “We know they’re going to play El Campo as hard as they can so that definitely fires us up.”
“They got athletes and for the most part, they’ve been in all their games,” Ricebirds Head Coach Wayne Condra said. “They’ve had some bad things happen and it kind of fell apart on them. They got a good football team. They play hard. It’s El Campo and Bay City, it’s the longest-running rivalry in the State of Texas. It’s always a big game.”
The numbers show Bay City has had a hard time re-tooling after graduating key seniors, namely quarterback Dylan Davidson.
Offensively the Blackcats are led by dual-threat senior quarterback Carlos Lara who’s combined for 944 yards through the air and on the ground. Senior running back RJ Mitchell is going to fall short of the 1,000 yards he had on the ground last season, but he’s still pounding the ball 6.5 yards a carry.
“They’ve gone to a kind of 50-50 run and pass attack. They’ve moved the ball on everybody they’ve played,” Condra said. “They’ve just had something go wrong here and go wrong there and you can’t expect that to happen against us.”
El Campo’s defense is the second-best in district allowing 223 yards a game. The Ricebirds have also forced 15 turnovers this season. The defensive line has caused a lot of problems for opposing teams and if they fire off the ball the way they have the last few games, Bay City’s offense could be in for a long night.
The number one rushing attack in district got a little harder to stop after their last game when they played Sealy. Yes, you have to worry about the 2,610 yards the Ricebirds gained on the ground this season, but in the win over Sealy, Braden threw the ball for 91 yards.
“(Our offense) is good,” Braden. “The three backs we have and the line, gosh it’s improved so much through the weeks with holes getting bigger.”
Braden against Bay City will start in his fourth game, after being forced into action after Clay Jung got injured in Needville. The junior quarterback, had to quickly change mindsets.
Aafter guarding wide receivers on defense, Braden had to flip over and start running the offense. Understandably, he was nervous, but it quickly faded and being the Ricebirds starting quarterback for a few weeks now, the job is normal to him now.
“After that first snap I felt way more comfortable being a varsity starting quarterback,” Braden said. “After we lost the Needville game, I felt a lot of pressure. Then we started winning and it’s improved my confidence a lot.”
In the game against Sealy, Braden slung the ball over the field connecting with five different receivers.
“Usually El Campo is a running team and when they gave me the opportunity to pass, I took advantage of it,” Braden said.
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“With the running backs we have, it’s hard for Coach Condra to call pass plays,” Braden said with a smile. “But I think after the Sealy game he has more confidence in me after seeing how I performed under pressure.”