With nearly 100 points scored, it was the El Campo Ricebirds who outgunned the Lindale Eagles 56-42 at McLane Stadium in Waco Thursday night.
El Campo and Lindale traded knockout shots throughout the game. The Ricebird defense came on strong in the second half, holding Lindale, last year’s state finalist, to 14 points, picking off three passes to help them seal the area championship.
“We came out halftime 28-28. We told them if we got a stop we knew the offense was going to come execute behind us,” El Campo senior defensive back David Ursery said. “Our job was to stop them. We knew they had a good quarterback, once we started hurting him, that’s all we needed.”
Lindale’s senior quarterback Sam Peterson, a Texas State baseball commit, had 378 yards of total offense, throwing three touchdowns and running in for another.
While the Ricebirds had a tough time with the pass in the first half, Lindale had no answer for El Campo’s rushing offense. Ricebird senior Johntre Davis and junior Rueben Owens II had seven touchdowns between them. Owens rushed for 324 yards and Davis pounded Lindale for another 147.
“It feels good, last year we got out in the second round,” Owens said. “I was like we’re not losing this year, so it feels good.”
Neither team slowed each other down in the first half with the score tied 28-28 with El Campo driving to the end zone with under two minutes left. El Campo fumbled at the one-yard line, recovered by Lindale.
Lindale on the first play completed a big screen pass, taking the ball near mid-field. With time ticking off the clock, they dinked and dunked their way into the redzone. Lindale got a little greedy looking to get a touchdown. On third down with seven seconds left, Peterson was looked for the endzone, but Ricebird pressure caused him to scramble and throw. His pass was incomplete with time expired, leaving Lindale without a short field goal opportunity.
“It was a slugfest in the first half. We fumbled going in on a quarterback sneak, but then we stop them from before the half which was huge,” El Campo head coach Chad Worrell said. “We held them to (14) points in the second half. Our defense comes up with three turnovers and the offense just kept doing what they did. We battled throughout and came out ahead.”
El Campo senior quarterback/defensive back Isaiah Anderson set the tone in the second half, getting an interception on Lindale’s opening drive.
The Ricebirds pounded the ball right through Lindale with seven straight runs. Davis gave El Campo the lead, punching it in from four yards out.
Like in the first half, Lindale went right back down the field answering El Campo’s touchdown to tie the game once again at 35-35. Looking for a knockout blow, Lindale converted an onside kick attempt, setting them up on El Campo’s 37-yard line.
After a first down, the momentum seemed to be with Lindale. However, the Ricebird defense hardened, facing a fourth and six at the 19-yard line, Lindale went for it. Peterson made a toss over the middle but the pass was broken up by senior DK Ward, who came up with a pick later.
El Campo took advantage of the turnover, behind three long runs, one from Owens and two from Davis, the Ricebirds had the lead once more.
Lindale on the following drive, had the games’ only punt, after Ward broke up another Peterson pass on third and long.
Looking to start taking time off the clock, El Campo behind their offensive line, slowly marched forward. Eight plays later, with under nine minutes left, Davis scored on a 10-yard run putting El Campo up 49-35.
The defensive line got good pressure on Peterson on the first play of their next drive, Ursery stepped in front picking off the pass, his first of the season. Four plays later Owens beat the defense to the outside and ran into the endzone to put El Campo up three scores, putting the game out of reach with less than seven minutes.
“It was a breath of relief, the past couple of years round two has been our stop,” Ward said. “To get past that feels really good.”
El Campo knows they will play next week, but was unknown as of press time. They will play the winner of West Columbia (6-4) and Little Cypress-Mauriceville (9-2), who played Friday night after press-time.