In the final game of the 2018 season the El Campo Ricebirds played West Columbia and were shut out, something that’s only happened twice in the past 10 years. This Friday when they go on the road to play the Texas City Stingarees, it will have been 42 long weeks since that final football game in West Columbia.
“ (We’re) just to get back out there and start a new year and get that bad taste out of your mouth,” Ricebird Head Coach Wayne Condra said. “There’s a lot of people out there doubting the Ricebirds, not giving us much of a chance. These kids have busted their tails and have been working hard. We’re excited about the year and seeing what unfolds.”
After two strong scrimmages against both La Grange and Sweeny and nearly a month of practices, the Ricebirds will get to test themselves in a real game against the Stingarees. In the scrimmages, the team has gained confidence they hope will carry over to Friday night.
“Having a 3-7 season last year wasn’t very good and it made us hang our heads,” senior wide receiver and defensive back Griffen Croix said. “I think going through the scrimmages, beating Sweeny, who we lost to really bad last year, has gotten our momentum going.”
2018 has a season that did not have many bright spots, but the silver lining to a down year was the experience gained by all the players who contributed to the varsity roster. Croix, mainly a receiver on junior varsity, last year played corner in addition to his offensive duties. He learned a lot and now enters this year as someone counted on at both positions. Croix is one of the many Ricebirds who had to learn on the job last season.
“We have good depth now,” Croix said. “This year we have people with more experience I think will help us and our chemistry is better on the field.”
Last year the Stingarees left El Campo with a loss, but the game was a close one-score game. Four turnovers helped the Ricebirds come out with the home win. In the game sophomore quarterback Phillip McDaniel hurt El Campo on the ground and through the air, but he transferred and Texas City will have someone new this season, which will give the offense a new look. The Ricebirds could see more of a running based attack.
The Stingarees defense will count on younger playmakers with their three top tacklers graduating. Senior nose tackle Jontel Stevenson is the Stingarees leading returning tackler with 46 total tackles, three tackles for loss and three sacks.
El Campo last year had 170 yards on the ground and a big rushing game this Friday could go a long way to getting a win. Tackling on defense and giving up extra yards could determie how successful the Ricebirds are against Texas City, who accounted for nearly 300 yards of offense against them last year.
The Ricebirds put on shows in their first two scrimmages, now the test will be if they can do the same, in a game for 48 minutes.