EL CAMPO – El Campo scored first and scored often to push past Navasota 48-14 in the District 12-4A opener Sept. 22.
The Ricebirds (3-2, 1-0) first drive was delayed by an injury as one of their receivers attempted a sideline catch and had to be loaded in an ambulance and taken to the hospital. Whether playing for their injured teammate or just motivated by their first district game, El Campo scored three consecutive touchdowns and five in the opening half.
Ja’Kwuan Hudlin capped the Ricebirds first drive a minute and 48 seconds into the game on a 14-yard run. Diego Guitierrez booted in the point after.
Navasota answered with a drive of their own, but the drive stalled forcing the Rattlers to attempt a 43-yard field goal. El Campo blocked the kick. The Ricebirds extended their lead on a 3-yard run by quarterback Oliver Miles.
The Ricebirds capitalized on another Rattler miscue on the ensuing drive. Navasota’s punt attempt came off the foot awkwardly and bounced back toward the Rattler punter who had to down it immediately. The punt went only two yards.
Miles connected with Dean Poenitzsch for a 19-yard score, but the kick hit the left upright giving the Ricebirds a 20-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Navasota narrowed the lead in the second quarter, putting together a drive that saw Javyn Jessie connect with tight end Kaddon Hubbard and Da’Quan Pratt on big pass plays. Jessie finished the drive with a 9-yard run. Juan Vargas booted in the point-after.
El Campo stormed back with a pair of scores to close out the half. Hudlin broke a couple tackles at the 45-yard line, then raced past the Rattlers for a 48-yard score. The Ricebirds picked off a Navasota pass setting up their final score of the half, a 14-yard pass from Miles to Mason Bystrek who made a leaping grab in the endzone. Guitierrez connected on both extra points to take a 34-7 lead into halftime.
“When you get down like we did in the first half you are looking to compete and you’re looking for pride,” said Navasota Head Coach Casey Dacus. “At that point it is a lot less about x’s and o’s and a lot more about heart and guts.”
Dacus described the way the Rattlers started the game as “funky.” “I thought tonight for some reason we started off flat. I don’t know why because we had a good week of practice. We had a good pregame. Everything was good, then it was just kind of a funky opening to the game for lack of a better way of saying it.”
At halftime Dacus stressed the importance of each person doing their own job. “We got on our heels defensively,” said Dacus. “You have a tendency when you get on your heels to try to do somebody else’s job and not do your own. So, it is not from lack of effort, it is guys not executing because they are trying to do more than they need to do. Once we talked about that at halftime, we were able to calm some guys down, but by then the damage had been done.”
Navasota opened the second half with a drive capped by a 14-yard touchdown run by Jamall Thomas. Vargas booted in the point-after, but the Rattlers couldn’t find the endzone the remainder of the game.
Hudlin scored twice in the third quarter, the first on a 4-yard run. Navasota fumbled the ensuing kickoff. El Campo capitalized on a 1-yard run from Stephen Norman. Guitierrez connected on both extra points.
El Campo rushed 36 times for 340 yards and five touchdowns. They were also 5-of-7 passing for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
Navasota rushed 34 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Jessied connected on 16-of-24 pass attempts for 194 yards and an interception and rushed 11 times for 41 yards and a touchdown. Thomas carried the ball 14 times for 63 yards and a touchdown. Pratt had seven catches for 126 yards.
“We had some injuries tonight that hurt us,” said Dacus. “We had two lineman who weren’t able to play the second half, so we were playing with a couple of backups there and some other places to.”
Jessie left the game late after suffering a potential concussion. Hudson Minor, who is the backup quarterback, was battling an ankle injury and unable to play in the second half. Cameron Quezada led the Rattlers final drive that stalled at the 1-yard line as time expired.
“We had some injury stuff happen tonight that is going to cause us to kind of make some adjustments I think moving forward,” said Dacus.
Navasota (1-5, 0-1) hosts the Bay City Blackcats (4-1, 1-0) at Rattler Stadium Sept. 29, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.
“Bay City is a good football team,” said Dacus. “There are no weak teams in our district, we know that. As much as we hate to, we’ve got to flush this one and move on. We can’t dwell on it. We have to get ready for Bay City.
“It’s cliché but our goals are still in front of us,” Dacus said. “We didn’t lose anything tonight other than our first game in district. Last year we were in the same situation. We lost to El Campo at home but bounced back to beat a really good Bay City team on the road. So, we have to do a good job of regrouping and get back into our good habits and our things that we do well, and get some positive vibes going again and try to build on it.”