The El Campo Ricebirds put together a complete game Saturday afternoon and took down the Wharton Tigers 3-1 at Eddie Joseph Memorial Football Stadium in Wharton.
The Tigers’ (6-8-2, 3-5-2) loss allows the Ricebirds (5-5-5, 3-3-3) to leapfrog them in the district standings. With three games left to play, it’s now the Ricebirds who have the inside track at a playoff spot.
Wharton outshot the Ricebirds 20-11, but El Campo’s keeper senior Gabriel Reyes turned away most of the attempts including a couple of diving stops.
A draw for most of the first-half, Ricebird sophomore Adrian Vargas broke the deadlock. With 14:09 left, Vargas with possession got a clean look from the 10-yard line. Wharton’s keeper got his hand on the shot, but it was deflected into the goal.
“We’re known as a second-half team, but today we were all-around great,” Reyes said. “This is only our second game that we actually scored a goal in the first half. In the second half, we finished strong.”
Tiger senior Carlos Amaro had a couple of good runs and shots at the goal in the first half. Amaro tied the game 1-1 with 6:40 left in the first half. The Wharton senior with an El Campo defender covering him made some space and as he entered the penalty area lifted the ball just over the head of Reyes and into the goal.
El Campo sophomore Alexis Salazar once again put the Ricebirds in front early in the second half. Salazar, one-on-one with a defender, put a strike on the ball as he entered the penalty area beating the goal with 33:09 left in the game.
The Ricebirds added to their lead with junior Sirapong Muanpet scoring the third goal with 17:26 remaining. Muanpet nailed a shot from the wide side of the five-yard-line, beating the keeper to the opposite side of the net.
“The past few games we started off a little slow, but I think they came out firing on all cylinders in both halves,” El Campo coach Matthew Sohrt said. “The kids knew this was a much-needed win, we came into the game in seventh place. They came out and they performed.”
Down the stretch Wharton had two attempts on target, inside the goal area. Reyes dove to stop one header and the Tigers missed on a second header that would have been wide open.
El Campo closes the season with Sweeny, Stafford and Brazosport.
Sweeny is in fourth place with 14 points, El Campo has 13, Wharton has 11 and Needville has 10.
The El Campo Ladybirds did not want to go 0-3 against the Wharton Lady Tigers this season and with a 2-1 road win Saturday they will not. The win was also the first in district play this season for El Campo.
El Campo had lost to Wharton in a tournament game earlier in the season and during district, however, the Ladybirds got revenge in their final meeting.
Senior Lizbeth Hernandez gave El Campo the lead on a breakaway in the first half. Hernandez found the back of the net again in the second off a pass from junior Valerie Mendoza in the second half.
Lady Tigers sophomore Madison Hernandez pulled them back into the game scoring to make it 2-1, but El Campo held on for the win.
“It was so special to finally get a win especially on the road and against a team that has beat us twice,” Ladybirds coach Stephanie Cortez said. I was (happier) for the girls. It is so defeating to play hard every game and not get a win.”