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Ricebirds claim first regional title since 1967

By Taylor Mitchell
Dec. 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.

El Campo running back Montray Johnson powers his way up the middle past several Ingleside linemen during Friday's game at Memorial Stadium in Victoria.

Montray Johnson said he wants to make history with this year's El Campo football team.

On Friday night he and the rest of the Ricebirds etched their names in the record books with a 31-20 victory over Ingleside for the Class 3A, Division I championship for Region IV, the first for the school since 1967.

"It feels great to be regional champs," Johnson said. "We just do what we do and work hard."

"When we dropped to 3A it was kind of expected. We've played with a lot of pressure all year," El Campo head coach Bob Gillis said. "I'm real proud that the kids handled that pressure and won the region."

El Campo (13-0) tallied 460 yards of total offense, including 391 on the ground against a Mustangs (9-4) defense that had given up an average of 115 rushing yards per game. Johnson, who played in last week's victory with a sickness, led the way for the Ricebirds with 111 yards and three touchdowns.

"I have to give the credit to my offensive line," Johnson said after the game. "Without blockers I wouldn't have anything."

"Montray was sick last week. He wasn't feeling very good. He felt a lot better this week," Gillis said.

Late in the third quarter, El Campo led Ingleside by just three points, and the Mustangs had just forced El Campo into a three and out.

However, any momentum Ingleside carried at that point vanished when senior Tamall Terrell intercepted a Tristen Barajas pass at his own 25-yard line.

The Ricebirds drove the length of the field on a 16-play, 85-yard drive that ended with Johnson's third touchdown run of the night.

The one-yard score gave El Campo a 24-14 lead and, after forcing Ingleside to turn the ball over on downs in four plays on the ensuing possession, made it 31-20 on a Bryce Brandl 5-yard touchdown run.

Ingleside gained seven more yards than their season average of 394 ypg, but the Mustangs were unable to finish off their drives, turning the ball over on downs on half of their possessions.

The pressure on Barajas from the Ricebirds' pass rush played a major role in containing Ingleside's offense, with Barajas being sacked three times, including twice by Cole Hunt.

"That's what we do. That's our game plan," Hunt said about his team's pass rush. "They had a couple big plays, but other than that they didn't do much."

El Campo's consistent rushing attack began on the first play of the game when Johnson bullied his way over a pair of defenders for a 2-yard gain. Eight plays and 60 yards later, he crossed the goal line for the first time.

Johnson gave the Ricebirds a two-touchdown lead at the 11:32 mark of the second quarter when he broke through the line for a 12-yard touchdown.

Ingleside was able to respond on the ensuing possession when Skylar Shugart beat his defender for a 39-yard touchdown reception from Barajas.

The Mustangs later scored on a similar play when, in the third quarter, Terrance Robinson ran past his defender and Barajas hit him in stride for an 88-yard touchdown, cutting El Campo's lead to 17-14 midway through the third quarter.

"He just ran by him, and we were supposed to play deep, but didn't," Gillis said. "That's why I have gray hair."

With the 11-point victory, El Campo moves on to the semifinal round of the Class 3A, Div. I playoffs. The Ricebirds will face Carthage, which defeated Silsbee 50-21 last Friday, this week.

"This is unbelievable," Hunt said. "I've never been to an El Campo game with this many people. I was going around with goosebumps on my arm. It was a great atmosphere."

El Campo will face Carthage for the right to play for the state championship this Friday at Lamar University in Beaumont.

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FOR MORE: To see more photos from Friday's El Campo-Ingleside game, click here.

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