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By Victoria Advocate
Sept. 30, 2013 at 4:30 a.m.

El Campo head coach Bob Gillis talks with his offense while going over the blocking scheme, which begins with center Zeke Tsika (55) snapping the ball.

STATISTICS NEEDED

Statistics are needed for the Advocate's area leaders. Coaches should send season statistics for rushing, passing, receiving, punting, interceptions and scoring. Statistics may be sent to mforman@vicad.com or by fax to 361-574-1220.

EL CAMPO - Center Zeke Tsika and his El Campo teammates may have felt like someone had turned back the clock.

The Ricebirds started the season with three straight wins - before the weather and an open date left them with two consecutive weeks of practice without a game.

The unrelenting heat on the artificial surface at Ricebird Stadium the last few weeks has made it seem like two-a-days all over again.

"It was dang near it," Tsika said. "It was not fun, but we definitely needed it."

El Campo was looking forward to its Sept. 20 game against Richmond Foster at Traylor Stadium in Rosenberg. But lightning delayed the game for an hour before it was canceled.

Foster didn't want to play the game Saturday because it started district play that Thursday.

"I felt like the first three games we were getting a little bit better," said El Campo coach Bob Gillis. "At Foster, I hoped to take another step and find out some things we need to work on with all the new faces."

The Ricebirds went back to basics last week before turning their attention to their District 25-3A opener at Bellville this week.

"It's been anticipating, and we're really anticipating playing a game," Tsika said. "We're really worked hard and gotten our strength up and lifted a lot more weights. We've practiced more on the Ricebirds than another team."

Not playing a game in two weeks hurt El Campo in the state poll. The Ricebirds dropped out of the top 10 and fell to the 11th spot in this week's poll.

Gillis could care less about the poll, but he is concerned about his team getting out of its normal routine.

"That's the main thing with anybody is you want to be in a routine," he said. "Not only do you practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we practiced Thursday, and we practiced Friday.

"We did some different things, and we may not have practiced as long. We brought them up here on Saturday and watched some film on Bellville. We tried to keep them in routine as best we could."

El Campo has new starters at almost every position on offense and defense but has still been able to extend its regular-season winning streak to 16 games.

"We started with a lot of new faces and a lot of new people just everywhere in the whole scheme of the game, but we've matured a lot," Tsika said. "We've grown together as a team. Last year, it was mainly the seniors. We've developed a friendship and ways that we can work together."

Bellville was the district favorite coming into the season but lost its district opener 32-27 to Columbus last Friday night.

"We were at the game. Give Columbus credit," Gillis said. "It hung in there and hung in there. Columbus has some talent. It has a lot of seniors back. Bellville made some mistakes, and Columbus took advantage of them and ended up winning the game. It was a heck of a football game to watch. I'm sure it wasn't very good for Bellville."

Gillis hopes the Ricebirds can overcome their layoff and leave the Brahmas feeling the same way Friday night.

"After two weeks, we hope that we don't lose what we gained," he said. "We tried to practice like that to make it more game-like stuff. You just never know. Practice is practice, and games are games. Like I told the guys, I hope they're mature enough to handle it."

Bad news, good news

Calhoun's 27-game regular-season winning streak came to an end with a 48-0 loss to Corpus Christi Calallen last Friday.

Hallettsville now has the longest regular-season winning streak in the area.

The Brahmas extended their streak to 18 games with a 49-0 win over Weimar.

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 AdvoSports.com.

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