The annual Battle of the Colorado River will be the 111th between the El Campo Ricebirds (2-1) and the Wharton Tigers (0-3), this year it will take place in Wharton at Eddie Joseph Memorial Football Stadium Friday night.
El Campo got back on the right track picking up a win over the Calhoun Sandcrabs at home last Friday.
Wharton lost to the Bay City Blackcats on the road, but they played their tightest game this season.
El Campo’s game with Wharton will be their first road game this season after spending the entire preseason and the first three games at Ricebird Stadium.
Wharton’s young squad found some success this past week against Bay City in the air. Tiger sophomore quarterback Gage Gaona and junior wide receiver Jarrad Newsome connected for big plays.
Wharton last year averaged 16.2 points per game. Through three games this season the Tigers are scoring five points a game. While limited offense, they have had chances to score.
“We found a match-up in the passing game against Bay City,” Wharton Head Coach Chad Butler said. “But we didn’t execute in the red zone and left four scoring opportunities on the field.”
El Campo’s defense, at times, has struggled when opponents go to the air. The defense is aggressive and gets pressure on the quarterback, they are getting some competitions to keep drives alive. El Campo’s defense is allowing 35.6 points per game through three games.
“They’ve got some explosive talent on the field,” El Campo Head Coach Chad Worrell said. “The quarterback throws the ball really well. The running back is very capable, whenever he gets a sliver, he’s gone. They’ve got a go-to receiver, he’s good and athletic, speedy and long and will present some challenges. They want to spread you out and get the ball to their kids in space.”
Wharton last beat El Campo three years ago. While Wharton lost last season, they hung with El Campo until the end of the game.
Wharton’s spread attack allows them to score quickly if El Campo has any breakdowns in coverage.
Next week, El Campo has a big game with 5A Boerne-Champion, ranked 10th in the state. However, Worrell isn’t concerned with looking ahead.
“I think they’re kind of looking forward to getting on the road even though it’s a short trip,” Worrell said. “It’s Wharton/El Campo, which is a big rivalry game for the county, which keeps the kids locked in. We haven’t talked about anything past Wharton.”
The Ricebirds this past Friday got the offense going. After a slow start to the game against the Sandcrabs, they broke out in the second half.
The offensive line opened up holes for junior running back Rueben Owens II and senior Johntre Davis. Owens tailed up a big night scoring six touchdowns, running for five and throwing for another. In total, he had 308 yards, with 269 coming on the ground. Overall Davis and Owens combined for 416 yards rushing.
Through the Ricebirds’ three games this season they are averaging 40.6 points per game.
“Our offensive coaches did a great job of getting us in a position to where we’re going to have some success,” Worrell said. “And our kids did a great job of executing.”
Wharton this season is allowing 42 points per game.
“Our defense has actually been playing better than scores indicate. It’s tough when the offense keeps putting them on the field,” Butler said.
“El Campo is explosive on offense and they bring the pressure defensively,” Butler said. “It will be exciting to get out there and compete with a state-ranked team.”
According to Leader-News research done in 2010, of the games that can be verified El Campo led the series 62-22. Updated to this season, El Campo now leads the series 71-24.
Davis and Owens both lead the Ricebirds in rushing, so far this season the pair has ran for almost 900 yards and 13 touchdowns in three games.