The District 12 Championship is coming back to Wharton County after the El Campo Ricebirds (8-1, 5-0) went on the road Friday night and soundly beat the Needville Bluejays (6-4, 4-1) in the regular-season finale.
Both offense and defense shined bright as the Ricebirds picked up the 40-21 win over the Bluejays, allowing them to close out district play undefeated.
“It’s great. I love it for these kids,” Ricebirds Head Coach Wayne Condra said. “These kids worked their tails off for it and, they came out and executed on all levels.”
The Ricebirds have won three district championships since Condra took over the team in 2015.
El Campo’s defense made their presence felt, with four sacks on the night, two from senior Kaden Alcalais. El Campo got pressure and forced Needville’s senior quarterback Trevor Baker into rushed throws, one resulting in an interception by sophomore Rueben Owens ll.
Going into Friday night, Needville’s running attack averaged more than 220-yards a game. However, the Ricebirds defense dropped the wall on them allowing 102 yards.
With the defense limiting Needville, the Ricebirds offense took advantage.
El Campo on their first drive marched down the field and scored. Owens in the wildbird scored from 10-yards out capping off a seven-play 55-yard drive.
The Ricebirds rushed out to a two-score lead after a bad Needville punt and a penalty gave them the ball on the nine-yard line. Four plays later, junior Johntre Davis scored from one yard out.
Needville trailing two scores, on their next possession put together a drive that brought them near the red zone. On second and seven, from the 30-yard line, Baker threw the ball long. The Ricebirds brought pressure and his pass was short allowing Owens to pick off the throw in the endzone.
El Campo senior quarterback Cullen Braden wasted no time with the gift of an extra possession. Braden on the quarterback keeper hit the outside and scampered into the endzone from 80-yards away putting them up 20-0.
Needville chipped away at El Campo’s lead and made things interesting in the second half. Trailing 27-7, Needville used a couple of quick passes and scored to make it a two-score game.
A tight game evaporated once Owens got going in the second half. The sophomore juked his way through the Bluejay defense for a 43-yard score in the third quarter and a 74-yard touchdown in the fourth to put the game away.
“They started to come back towards the end, we slipped a little bit on defense,” Owens said. “We picked it back up and scored again and it was game over. I’m really excited. We might be a young (team) but we’ve got a lot of potential to make it far.”
The playoffs start next week and the Ricebirds will play someone from District 11. However, they do not know their first-round match up.