Championship-bound Ricebirds share similarities with 1967 team
Dec. 13, 2012 at 6:13 a.m.
On Friday night at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Clay Glaze and the rest of the El Campo Ricebirds (14-0) will take the field against Stephenville (12-1) for the Class 3A state championship.
Almost 45 years ago to the day, his grandfather, Ross Glaze, did the exact same thing.
On Dec. 16, 1967, the Ricebirds played in El Campo's first and, at least until this season, only state championship game after going 13-0, where they fell to Brownwood 36-12.
"The main thing before this season was we didn't want anyone to top us," said Ross Glaze, who was a senior left tackle for 1967 team. "But now that my grandson and the rest of the team are there, I want them to win it all. We're ready for them to win. It's something that is long overdue."
El Campo has fielded a football team every year since 1911 but never won a state championship, and the 1967 season was the only time the Ricebirds ever played for one.
"El Campo is rich in athletic history and has had some fine athletes over the years," head coach of the 1967 team Jack Hays said. "They are always some outstanding men, and I hope they win their last game this season. They deserve it."
Hays coached the Ricebirds from 1962 through 1968 and won 18 consecutive games from 1966-1967 (El Campo did not make the playoffs in 1966) before the loss to Brownwood at University of Texas' Memorial Field (now called Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium).
The 1960s proved to be a great time for El Campo football. In 1966, the Ricebirds went 9-1, and they finished the 1968 season 8-2. However, that 1967 team was the best of the bunch.
"In that time, there were some exceptional athletes. They were a really good bunch of kids," Hays said. "They were a very competitive bunch and enjoyed playing together."
The current Ricebirds share a lot of traits and experiences with the Ricebirds from 45 years ago. Both teams use the rushing attack to move the ball. Neither team was huge but was able to take advantage of its quickness to defeat opponents.
"We were a great team, but they may be even better," said Charles Nader, a junior defensive tackle in 1967, said. "At least that's what their record will show."
Maybe the most drastic similarity between the two teams is how they punched their tickets to the state championship game.
Last week, the Ricebirds scored twice in the final three and a half minutes to win 29-25. Down 25-14, quarterback Bryce Brandl scored on runs of 7 and 2 yards and B.J. Flagg forced and recovered a fumble for El Campo at Carthage's 9-yard line that led to Brandl's game-winning touchdown.
In December 1967, El Campo faced off against Seguin, who was also 12-0, and after three and a half quarters of play, the Ricebirds trailed 14-7.
"We played some really, really tough teams that year," Herman Mauch, a junior lineman, recalled. "But somehow we always came out on top."
With 5:32 left in the game, senior linebacker Bob Ryan recovered a fumble at Seguin's 17-yard line. Nearly two minutes later, Billy Humphrey plunged through the middle of Seguin's defense for a 2-yard touchdown run.
Seguin began to throw the ball but didn't have any success, turning the ball over on downs at their own 25-yard line. Two plays later, running back Billy Joe Polasek broke free for the 23-yard game-winning touchdown.
"That is what Ricebirds are supposed to do. We come from behind to win," Ross Glaze said. "They did it against Carthage, and we did it against Seguin. I remember fans had actually left the stadium because they thought it was over, but then they heard us come back on the radio."
"We won a lot of our games by a close margin that year," Hays said. "We did have some big wins, but the close wins showed the competitiveness of that team."
Just like the current Ricebirds will experience the spectacular Cowboys Stadium Friday night, the 1967 Ricebirds had their own wide-eyed moment when they first walked into Memorial Stadium.
"It was the first time any of us had played on AstroTurf, and we had to be issued shoes from the UT locker room because we only had cleats," Mauch said.
Even the two opponents of El Campo in the state title games have similarities. Stephenville has been one of the powerhouses of Class 4A during the past two decades, winning four state titles and advancing to the quarterfinal round the past two seasons.
In the 1960s, Brownwood had won two state titles under legendary coach Gordon Wood, and Wood was looking for a then-record fourth state championship.
Both Stephenville and Brownwood entered their respective state championship games with one loss, while both El Campo teams were undefeated. Yet, the Ricebirds weren't favored then, and they aren't favored now.
"We were little and weren't picked to do much of anything," Glaze said. "We didn't have the most ability, but our coach put the ability in us. Coach (Bob) Gillis is getting the best out of the players now."
The state championship game 45 years ago didn't go in El Campo's favor. Brownwood jumped out to a 23-0 lead before the Ricebirds got on the scoreboard with two rushing touchdowns that made the score 23-12. But a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns by Brownwood secured the victory.
"It was a sad moment. We wanted to win it all, obviously, and were disappointed when we didn't," Mauch said.
Many of the members of the 1967 El Campo team still live in or near El Campo, and they can provide some insight to the current Ricebirds about what to expect Friday night and how to handle the electric atmosphere of a state championship game.
"It's going to be a big game, and they just need to keep their wits about them and not get over excited," Mauch said. "They just have to play steady and I think Coach Gillis will do a good job of doing that."
"It's going to be a big stadium, and there will be a lot of noise," Nader said. "The important thing is to keep in mind what you're playing for."
The members of the 1967 football team share a special bond with one another. Win or lose Friday night, they'll have a new special bond with 60 more Ricebirds that will last a lifetime.