Ricebirds make their way to Arlington, fans follow

Emily Glaze, 7, hugs the Ricebirds' mascot at the send-off event for the state championship-bound El Campo football team at Ricebirds' Stadium on Friday morning.

EL CAMPO - Emily Glaze woke up at 6 a.m. on Friday.

Not even once did the 7-year-old complain about the early wake up call, her mother said, as she excitedly got ready for the day.

She carefully pulled her hair back with a big red, white and football-decorated ribbon. Around her neck, she wore a red and white necklace to match her red-and-white El Campo Football State Championship T-shirt.

She completed her outfit with a pom-pom and a "Go Big Red" sign. She is ready for the state championship, she said.

"We are going to state. It is big and if we win, you are the best football team ever," Emily said about the importance of the day.

She waited from 7:30 a.m. Friday, along with hundreds of other Ricebirds and a helicopter, to see the football boys off to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington for the championship game.

"It doesn't come around very often, I told someone the other day it is like an eclipse," said coach Bob Gillis before the send-off. But he said they plan to change that.

The last state championship for the 101-year-old football team was in 1967.

Ross Glaze, of El Campo, said he was on that team, and for a while, he joked he didn't want anyone else to make it to state so their record couldn't be touched.

"But it is time for our record to be broken," he said.

Glaze, whose grandson Clay Glaze is a junior on the football team, is making his way to Dallas along with about 15 other family members to cheer on Clay.

And the Glazes aren't alone in their caravan - multiple other families will make the drive Friday in their own vehicles.

Fredia Sutton, whose daughter is a Derbie Doll, said they have 30 family members driving up to Dallas together.

The kids, she said, aren't going to school today, especially since El Campo ISD is letting out at 10 a.m. They will study along the way since the kids' 9-weeks tests start next week.

"We are so excited to go to Cowboys Stadium and my girls, my daughter, gets to dance on that field," she said.

Even though she doesn't have a son on the football team, she said the kids all grew up together and she can't wait to see them play.

"Those boys are our boys, too," Sutton said.

In addition to family caravans, Gillis said between 13 and 15 buses will head up to the game from around town. The El Campo Booster Club is sponsoring six of the buses, the bowling alley and other groups are sponsoring the rest.

With 4,000 tickets pre-sold through the school, Gillis said, the announced crowd at the game was 17,655 people.

"A lot of businesses are closing at noon. El Campo is going to be shut down, I hope some police officers stick around," Gillis joked.