Ricebirds wreak havoc on La Grange in playoff opener

    Photo by Frank Tilley.



    La Grange must have felt like it was playing with a backfield of five for the first half of its Class 3A, Division I bi-district game against El Campo.

    The problem for the Leopards was the extra player was wearing red.

    The El Campo defense wreaked havoc while sprinting out to a four-touchdown lead before coming away with a 35-21 win Friday night at Memorial Stadium.

    “I just think we played as a team,” said El Campo defensive end Cole Hunt. “Everybody just swarmed to the football and gang tackled. Coach (Wayne) Condra preaches that all the time. Eleven hats to the ball and that’s what we do and we showed it tonight.”

    El Campo improved to 11-0 and advanced to the regional round against Somerset, a 49-6 winner over Boerne. La Grange finished the season at 8-3.

    The Ricebirds forced three of La Grange’s four turnovers in the first half and limited the Leopards to 38 net yards rushing. The special teams also produced points when B.J. Flagg fell on a bad punt snap in the end zone.

    “Lights out, lights out, lights out,” El Campo head coach Bob Gillis said of the defense. “We had them down and dialed them in and just absolutely controlled the line of scrimmage and everything they did and that’s kind of the reason why the score was the way it was.”

    El Campo scored on its first three possessions, getting touchdown runs of 1 and 28 yards by quarterback Bryce Brandl and 9 yards by running back Jack Davis.

    “Our team came out like we never came out before,” said running back Montray Johnson, who added a 15-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. “We came out pumped up. It was a team thing. That’s what made us go up on them.”

    The Ricebirds rushed for 301 yards and averaged over nine yards per carry. Brandl led the way with 133 yards, Davis had 88 and Johnson added 80.

    “I felt like our guys really came out focused,” Gillis said. “You hate to say it may have been too good of a start, but everything we did worked and everything they did didn’t work. You never want to let your guard down.”

    La Grange took advantage of an El Campo fumble and scored twice in the third quarter behind quarterback Logan Vinklarek, who threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns.

    “The second half we talked about just coming out and driving the ball a little bit and we did,” Gillis said. “We had the fumble and it kind of turned the tide and give La Grange credit. It’s the district champ for a reason.”

    The Leopards had a first down at the El Campo 8-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but the Ricebirds forced a 40-yard field goal try that was wide to the left.

    La Grange had only one more possession and managed just one first down.

    “They’re kind of like a small El Campo team that’s never going to quit and they played their hearts out tonight,” Hunt said. “They could have easily come back. A lot of teams would shatter under that type of pressure and we held our own.”

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