A battle of two top 10 teams is happening at Ricebird stadium this Friday night when the El Campo Ricebirds (6-1, 2-1), ranked 10th in 4A DI, according to Texasfootball.com, hosts the number nine Sealy Tigers (4-1, 1-1).
The Ricebirds are coming off the destruction of the Brazosport Exporters, who a week earlier beat the Tigers on the road. Now Sealy will come to El Campo and face a pounding running game that’s yet to lose in front of their home fans outscoring teams 109-35 in three games.
Against the Exporters, El Campo’s ground game accounted for eight touchdowns and more than 400 yards rushing.
Sealy will be a different animal this week.
The Tigers Friday bring the number one defense in district in terms of scoring and yards allowed. Sealy this season is giving up 219 yards a game and only allowing eight points a game.
This isn’t the high flying offensive juggernaut of seasons past. Sealy will pit their defense against an El Campo ground game that’s accounted for 2,365 yards so far this season. In seven games, El Campo has already surpassed the 2,203 yards they had on the ground last year.
“They’re very active,” Ricebirds Head Coach Wayne Condra said. “(Tigers) Coach (Shane) Mobley does a great job with the defensive side. They’re a 3-3 and a 3-4 team and they give you so many different looks. They’ll give a three-man front, four-man front, five-man front and a six-man front, it’s just a matter of (the offensive line) not getting confused and making sure we block the right guys.”
Condra noted the offensive line has done a good job the past few weeks at establishing the line of scrimmage, which is giving the running backs holes to work with.
One of the bigger concerns for the El Campo linemen and running backs will be neutralizing Tigers senior Garrett Redden a first-team all-state player last year with 150 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks and two safeties.
The Ricebirds defense will see a Tigers team that is running the football more this season. However, they are still deadly through the air. No longer will they have to worry about Garret Zaskoda, who’s now graduated and pitching for Rice. The Birds this year will see senior Carter Cryan who’s picked up right where Zaskoda left off, completing passes at a slightly higher percentage this year.
Last season it wasn’t the pass that hurt the Birds, it was, now graduated, Ivan Bolden who ran the ball for 240 yards and three touchdowns.
This year Matthew Lord is carrying the ball for the Tigers and is averaging just over a first-down a carry, gaining 10.15 yards a run.
“He’s another great running back in Sealy,” Condra said. “He’s a burner. If he breaks (contain) he can go. We’ve got to do a great job at keeping him pinned up and not letting him bust loose.”
While the Birds are concerned about the run, the play-action pass is something they’re preparing for as well. Two years ago, at Ricebird Stadium, Sealy threw the ball all over the field, passing for 383 yards. This season El Campo has already been bitten by the pass when Fulshear was slinging the ball up and down the field.
The Ricebirds defensive front will be counted on big time to put pressure on Cryan and force him into bad throws. The secondary will need to make sure no one beats them over the top while also worrying about the short underneath throws.
El Campo is on the verge of becoming a team to be truly feared and a win over Sealy Friday will go a long way to establishing them as a scary team the rest of the way, no matter how much longer their season lasts.