The El Campo Ricebirds (2-1) will see their second straight passing attack when they go on the road to play the St. Thomas Eagles (0-0) this Friday night.
El Campo got their first taste of the passing game against the Wharton Tigers (0-4) in their 55-35 win last week.
Wharton tagged the Ricebirds defense for 239 yards through the air and three touchdowns. Only once did El Campo let Wharton beat them over the top on a long 60-yard touchdown after the defense over pursued a scrambling Tiger quarterback. Overall, the defense held. Without two giveaways on fumble recoveries touchdowns and long 60-yard catch, the score could have been 55-14.
With the Tigers test passed, the Ricebirds will move on to the advanced class in the Eagles.
The St. Thomas offense is filled with playmakers. Tight end Drake Martinez, wide receiver Cameron Bonner and quarterback Maddox Kopp, all have D1 college offers.
The Eagles last year were district champions in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) D1 District three. St. Thomas lost in the third round of the playoffs, losing to the eventual TAPPS state champions.
As a junior for St. Thomas, Kopp, a University of Houston signee, threw the ball for more than 3,000 yards last season. Over half of Kopp’s passes went to Bonner who caught 50 passes for 1,255 yards. Martinez had 49 catches for 604 yards.
“Just by reading up on them and looking at film, they’re very potent on the offensive side,” El Campo Head Coach Wayne Condra said. “They’re loaded on the offensive side. On defense, they graduated a bunch but they’ve got a couple of returners coming back. This will be their actual first football game and they’re going to be fired up.”
TAPPS schools, along with 5A and 6A programs, had their start pushed back one month. St. Thomas had their only scrimmage last week and now face El Campo.
The Ricebirds defense will have to find a way to disrupt Kopp and the St. Thomas offense. The Eagles last year averaged 27 points a game.
El Campo found some success against Wharton using junior running back Johntre Davis as a defensive tackle. Davis along with his 221 yards rushing, had two sacks. Senior defensive end Kade Johansen also had a sack.
“We’ve got to get a little more pressure than what we did last week on the quarterback,” Condra said. “We’ve got to try and get them off their spot. Don’t let them take that three-step drop and feel comfortable back there. We’ve got to do a better job at getting underneath routes and taking away the shorter throws.”
The Ricebirds offense had a breakout game scoring 55 points.
In back-to-back weeks, the team has had to deal with painful turnovers. Against Calhoun it cost them the game which dropped them out of the states top-10 ranking.
Against Wharton, it resulted in Tigers’ points.
“I think that’s something we’re going to be better at in securing (the ball),” Condra said.
St. Thomas lost their leading tackler to graduation, but senior Vincent Lee was a productive linebacker for them last season. Lee was a first-team all-district player as a junior and he’ll be tracking down Ricebird running backs. To go along with 113 tackles, Lee also had 11 tackles for loss and one interception.
El Campo’s running game, behind a cohesive offensive line has taken big jumps forward each week. Against Gonzales in week one, the Ricebirds finished with 216 rushing yards. In their next game against a tough Calhoun defense, they had 364 rushing yards. Last week, El Campo had 558 yards.
With it being St. Thomas’ first game of the year, if they aren’t ready for El Campo’s physical attack, they could be in for a long night and a lot of rushing yards.