Johnson ready to make history with Ricebirds
EL CAMPO - The Ricebirds have been around for over a half century, but have just one state title game appearance in their history, a 36-12 loss to Brownwood in the 1967 Class 3A title game.
They haven't even won a regional championship since that season 55 years ago, but El Campo (12-0) is just one win away from making history.
It's that history that fuels Montray Johnson on the field.
"For me, to win a state championship would be history. It's history for El Campo actually," Johnson said. "No team has ever won a state title here."
Johnson is one of 24 seniors on the El Campo roster and is the bruising full back in the Ricebirds' three-headed rushing attack. He's also one of four captains and works as hard as anyone in practice and in the weight room. However, it's how Johnson uses the same approach off the field that has drawn the admiration of his coach.
"I've coached a long time and Montray is one of the most mature high school seniors I've ever coached," El Campo head coach Bob Gillis said. "He handles things very well. He's a true leader for us and a smart young man. I have nothing but respect for that young man."
Johnson fits into El Campo's offensive attack like peanut butter and jelly go together. He's the fullback who leads the way for fellow seniors Jack Davis and Bryce Brandl, opening up holes for them to make long runs.
With Johnson leading the way, the Ricebirds have formed one of the best rushing attacks around with three players running for over 1,000 yards in the regular season. In two playoff games, the Ricebirds have gained 737 yards on the ground. Johnson himself has rushed 149 times in 12 games for 1,098 yards.
He's also a player opposing offenses know where he's lined up.
As one of two middle linebackers for El Campo, Johnson is running from side to side, shedding blocks and making tackles.
"Montray is a very good football player," Gillis said. "He's aggressive, smart, one of our leaders on and off the field, he plays both ways a lot for us and that wears him out sometimes. He gets the tough yards and has developed into a really good blocker."
This week the Ricebirds face an Ingleside (9-3) defense that has given up just 115 yards per game.
"If we have only 115 rushing yards in the game, we'll probably lose the game," Gillis said.
For El Campo, gaining 115 rushing yards in a game has been no sweat. The Ricebirds have failed to top 300 rushing yards only once (276 against Richmond Foster) in 12 games. They've averaged 360.4 ypg.
"They haven't played a running team and one that can throw the ball like us," Johnson said Ingleside. "They've been playing a lot of spread teams that throw the ball more, so that might be why they haven't given up more yards. But I'm pretty sure we're going to get more than that."
Johnson has been a part of three playoff teams at El Campo and this season makes four. But until this season he had yet to win a playoff game. With the way the Ricebirds have played this season and in their two playoff games, Johnson has his sights set on something even bigger.
"I'm trying to get a big ring on my finger," he said.
El Campo needs three more victories before Johnson figures out his ring size and the Ricebirds know that. They're focus is on Ingleside.
"It's exciting. It's a big game," Gillis said. "But our guys are solely focused on Ingleside."