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Ricebirds begin district play Friday

Sept. 20, 2011 at 4:20 a.m.

The El Campo offensive line runs practice drills at Ricebird Stadium on Monday.

EL CAMPO - El Campo began the season without any returning starters at the skill positions. Angleton had no such problem.

"They've got a bevy of running backs and all their defensive backs have different numbers than their running backs," said El Campo coach Bob Gillis. "Unless they changed numbers, then they're different guys so skill wise, they're pretty good."

Angleton has put its skills to good use under first-year head coach Ryan Roark, a former Cuero assistant.

The Wildcats have gotten off to a 4-0 start while averaging 428.5 yards and 40.5 points per game and received nine votes in this week's state Class 4A poll.

Angleton running back Ryan Jackson has rushed for a district-leading 542 yards and seven touchdowns, and quarterback T.J. Austin has passed for 449 yards and eight touchdowns with only one interception.

"They've been scoring a lot of points and they've been playing some pretty tough people," Gillis said. "I think they're as good as last year and I thought they were awful good last year."

El Campo will find out just how good when it opens District 23-4A play against Angleton on Friday at Ricebird Stadium.

The Ricebirds began district with a 42-27 win over the Wildcats last season and went on to win their first outright district championship since 1991.

"Our whole goal is to defend the district title," Gillis said. "That's our goal and that's what we talk about."

El Campo has had its share of ups and downs, while getting off to a 3-1 start.

The Ricebirds concluded their non-district schedule with a 41-6 win over Wharton.

"I think we've been playing pretty well," said junior offensive tackle Trey Martin. "We've got to keep control of the ball and not have so many turnovers. We also have to keep blocking like we've been blocking."

Martin knew the Ricebirds could struggle some early in the season. He has been pleased with the way the team has come together on and off the field.

"I thought we had some good running backs, the O-line had to block and we had to have some people step up on defense," Martin said. "I think we play as a team and we have a lot of respect for each other. That helps us out a lot, our chemistry and stuff."

El Campo's win over Angelton last season helped propel it to the district title. The Ricebirds hope to do the same this season.

"If we can beat Angleton," Martin said, "it will set the tone."Playing for keeps

District competition also begins in 28-3A, 14-2A Division I, 14-2A Division II, 15-2A Division II, 16-2A Division II, and 16-1A Division II.

Cuero will put its 40-game district winning streak on the line when it opens District 28-3A play at Pleasanton.

Cuero is 0-4 for the first time since 2002 and suffered its first shutout since 1997 in Friday night's 35-0 loss to Calhoun at Gobbler Stadium.

"I told them the first four are on me," said Cuero coach Rick Owens. "I told them help us get this next six. I think they will.

"I'll be perfectly honest with you, I'm very glad this part of the season is over. I'm looking forward to getting into district and trying to get some guys healthy."Around the area

Calhoun moved from No. 7 to No. 6 in the state Class 4A poll after its win over Cuero. Stephennville dropped from No. 4 to No. 9 in the 4A poll after losing to Lewisville Hebron.

Refugio and Ganado stayed No. 1 in the Class 2A and 1A polls, respectively, and Schulenburg remained at No. 3 in the Class 2A poll.

Shiner St. Paul had its area-best 17-game winning streak end in a 21-17 loss to Flatonia. Calhoun, Gonzales and Ganado have each won four straight games.

Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361- 580-6588 or mforman@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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