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El Campo seeks to stay the course, Bay City wants change

By MIKE FORMAN
Oct. 20, 2011 at 5:20 a.m.
Updated Oct. 21, 2011 at 5:21 a.m.

El Campo and Bay City is the state's longest continuous rivalry.

OLD RIVALRY, NEW CENTURY

2000 Bay City*, 16-7

2001: Bay City^, 38-7

2002: Bay City, 28-21

2003: Bay City#, 34-31, OT

2004: Bay City, 21-17

2005: Bay City, 28-21

2006: El Campo, 42-20

2007: El Campo, 19-18

2008: El Campo, 31-28, OT

2009: El Campo, 40-13

2010: El Campo, 38-14

*Won 4A Div. I state championship

^Advanced to 4A Div. II state final

#Advanced to 4A Div. I state final

EL CAMPO RICEBIRDS AT BAY CITY BLACKCATS

7:30 p.m. Friday, Memorial Stadium

Radio: KKHA, 92.5 FM & KULP, 1390 AM

Internet: www.kkhafam.com & www.kulpradio.com

ABOUT THE EL CAMPO RICEBIRDS

2011 Record: 4-3, 1-2 District 23-4A

Coach: Bob Gillis (14 years with Ricebirds, 109-40-2 overall)

Last season: 9-1, lost in bi-district round to La Marque. District 23-4A champion

ABOUT THE BAY CITY BLACKCATS

2011 Record: 4-3, 1-2 District 23-4A

Coach: Robert Blackmon (4 years with Blackcats, 11-24 overall)

Last season: 3-7, missed playoffs. Last playoff appearance was 2007.

El Campo's Cullen Schoener could watch Bay City's Derek Brown play for Rice next season.

"It was the same with Quandre Diggs last year," Schoener said. "Now, he's playing for the Longhorns. I can say I tackled him before."

Schoener got the best of Diggs when El Campo beat Angleton last season, and the senior hopes for the same result when the Ricebirds (4-3, 1-2) travel to Bay City's Memorial Stadium to take on the Blackcats (3-4, 1-2) in the 106th meeting of the state's oldest continuous rivals.

"Everybody knows how big of a rivalry this is," said Schoener, who will start at quarterback and defensive back. "It's a lot of talk. Even in our college classes our teacher has a class in Bay City too and said they've been talking about us over there."

El Campo has a 54-43-8 edge in the series, which has been played annually since 1920. The Ricebirds have won the last five games, including last season's 38-14 victory in El Campo.

"We've had some pretty good teams," said El Campo coach Bob Gillis. "It kind of goes in spurts sometimes. They'll win a few and then El Campo will win a few games."

Brown has never been on a team that defeated El Campo, which is hard for him to digest even with the opportunity to continue his career on the college level.

"It's kind of heartbreaking we haven't won," said Brown, who will start at quarterback and defensive end. "I guess they were kind of the bullies in junior high and it wasn't even close. Each year we've grown, and, now, I feel like we're bigger than them. I think this is our best shot at beating El Campo."

More than bragging rights are at stake between the Wharton and Matagorda county teams.

The winner will enhance its District 23-4A playoff hopes.

"It means a lot to both teams," said Gillis, whose team is seeking is fifth consecutive postseason appearance. "The team that wins this game, that doesn't necessarily mean you're in because you've got two other tough games after that. But you've got a leg up."

"It's been a long time coming since that word has been used around here," said Bay City coach Robert Blackmon, whose team is seeking its first playoff berth since 2007. "We've been down talent wise. We've just been down. I will say this year about the group of kids I've got is those guys fight for four quarters."

Blackmon has been pleased with the effort of Brown, who has been a force on offense and defense.

"You don't find many quarterbacks as strong as Derek and as fast as him on the 4A level," Blackmon said. "For the most part, what we've asked him to do he's done and excelled. He's a phenomenal athlete, a phenomenal student and an even better person. I'm glad he's on my team. The guy can do so much."

Gillis has the same sentiments about Schoener, who has become a team leader by example.

"Cullen's gotten better every week," Gillis said. "He starts on defense and he's probably one of the better defensive backs we have. Sometimes it's not fair to him because we don't get a chance to talk on the sideline. He plays very, very hard. I think the kids respect him just because he plays all the time."

Blackmon gives credit to Gillis for the program he has built at El Campo.

"Coach Gillis has a good system," said Blackmon, who is in his fourth season as a head coach. "Both offense and defense, those guys do such a great job. You can tell they're well coached. They're very disciplined and they're going to take care of their responsibilities. You have to execute to beat those guys. They're not going to give you anything."

Gillis is going up against Bay City for the 14th time and is wary of the Blackcats' potential.

"They're very athletic as always," Gillis said. "The quarterback can run and throw. They've got receivers who can catch it. They're a real scary team. The defense can run. We've played them since 1992 and Bay City's Bay City and they're going to be able to run and play scrappy defense."

Schoener's teams have defeated Bay City since he was in junior high and he wants to continue the streak.

"I wouldn't necessarily say it's my biggest rivalry, but it's there at the top," Schoener said. "I haven't lost to them since seventh grade and I'm not going to let that change now."

Brown, who missed last year's game with an injury, has a different idea.

"Here in Bay City the El Campo week is always important," he said. "Everybody gets up and the older people are asking you questions about how you're going to do. It's real important because this is one of the longest rivalries in Texas. It's definitely a privilege to be a part of it and I know I want to make my mark on it and bring Bay City back into it."

NOTES: El Campo concludes district play against Brazosport at home and Lamar Consolidated in Rosenberg.

Bay City plays Richmond Foster in Rosenberg and Rosenberg Terry at home.

El Campo turned in an average daily attendance of 975 to the UIL and is likely to drop to Class 3A in the reclassification and realignment for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. Bay City turned in an ADA of 1,045 and will almost surely stay in Class 4A.

But the coaches plan on continuing the rivalry next season as a non-district game if necessary.

"I think it's good for the community," Blackmon said. "I think it's good for our school community and the kids. I think it's a good game to keep."

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