Can't Touch Me

El Campo’s varsity running back Charles Shorter runs with the ball as junior varsity linebacker Holmero Balderas offers chase during practice earlier in the season.


Possibly the biggest matchup in the state, rankings-wise will happen this Friday night in Port Lavaca when El Campo Ricebirds (1-0) travel to Sandcrab Stadium to take on the Port Lavaca Calhoun Sandcrabs (1-1). 

The game features the Ricebirds who are ranked number six in the state and the Sandcrabs are listed at number eight.

“Most definitely (feels like a big game),” Ricebirds Head Coach Wayne Condra said. “They’ve got a tremendous football team and we knew that when we put them on the schedule (before the season). They were a very, very, very competitive at the 5A level and now they’re on the 4A level Divison 1 level.”

Running the seldom-used, triple-option, the Sandcrabs last season went two rounds deep in the 5A playoffs. The year before, Calhoun went four rounds deep.

The Sandcrabs offense last year scored 51.9 points a game while their defense allowed 23 points. Running the triple-option, they’re always a toss away from picking up big yards.

Along with the nearly 52 points a game, the Sandcrabs churned out 5,419 rushing yards in 2019.

In their first game of the season this year, they played the number ranked one team, in the La Vega Pirates (2-0) and lost. The Sandcrabs rebounded in week two, beating the Stafford Spartans (0-2) (plays in El Campo’s district) 40-14.

Calhoun against Stafford ran the ball for 432 yards and six touchdowns.

“It’s assignment football,” Condra said. “They’ve got a big offensive line and they’re going to pound the big full back inside. Their quarterback is really good. He’s very fast and quick and he can run the option.”

Of the five players who had rushing yards against Stafford, seniors Steve Johnson and Jarius Stewart accounted for 36 of their 44 rushing attempts and for 362 yards.

El Campo’s defense will have to be disciplined to contain the Sandcrabs and keep them from breaking free. This past week, El Campo did not get a chance to play with a game canceled before the season started. Instead, they spent the week trying to improve from their week one outing against the Gonzales Apaches (0-2).

The Ricebirds defense in the game held the Apaches to three yards a carry. Linebackers junior Jacob Lopez led the team with seven tackles and senior Oziel Alanis had six.

Offensively, El Campo did not have a single rusher have over 100-yards. What helped them in Gonzales was a collective effort with sophomore Rueben Owens ll, junior Johntre Davis and senior Cullen Braden all rushing the ball for more than 50-yards.

Calhoun on the season is allowing 17 points a game. The Sandcrabs against Stafford allowed a number of big plays, but they didn’t allow any long sustained drives.

Sandcrab junior Kirk Stringham leads the team in tackles with 16 and two for loss.

Defensively, the Sandcrabs play a similar defense to the Apaches and Sweeny, who the Ricebirds scrimmaged, earlier in the year.

“They’re going to pack the box and try and stop the run,” Condra said.

In El Campo’s first game, Braden when he had the blocking, completed three of four of his passing attempts for 50-yards. Including a long 40-yard pass to senior Charles Shorter to set up a touchdown right before the end of the first half.

A clean game will go a long way in helping the Ricebirds pick up their second win of the year.

In the Ricebirds season opener, their 11 penalties didn’t ultimately hurt them. However, against the Sandcrabs, that likely won’t be the same case.

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