STORY BY: JORDAN MESEROLE
– BRYAN – It was the same song, second verse for the Rudder Rangers on Friday night – careless mistakes paired with inability to control an opponent’s rushing game led to an ultimate loss.
The El Campo Ricebirds (2-0) brought its run-heavy offense into Bryan on Friday night, and cruised to an easy 55-26 victory over Rudder (0-2) who at one point trailed by 49 points.
El Campo began its scoring onslaught early in the first quarter, as senior quarterback Bryce Brandl scored easily from only one yard out to cap a 52-yard drive by the Ricebirds to take a 7-0 lead.
El Campo continued its rushing attack against the Rangers – who gave up more than 400 yards on the ground – featuring a two-back rushing offense, split primarily between Jack Davis and Montray Johnson. With just 1:55 left in the first quarter, Davis flashed his speed, scampering 42 yards down the Rudder sideline to push the score to 14-0. Davis finished the night with 137 yards.
Rudder finally got a spark with 1:40 left in the first quarter, as junior Robert Lee picked up a bobbled kickoff at the Rudder 5-yard line, and returned it 95 yards cutting back across the field and shaking multiple tackles to get the score, moving the score to 14-6 after a missed point-after-attempt.
But it would be the lone bright point in the first half for Rudder, as El Campo would tack on three more rushing touchdowns before halftime to go into the locker-room with a 35-6 lead. Even more painful for the Rangers was the fact that two of the scores came from turnovers, the first coming just two plays after an interception by Rudder senior quarterback Luke Piper with 3:03 left in the second quarter, and the second score occurring on a botched 34-yard field goal attempt, in which Rudder place-holder Llelwyn Boswell mishandled a snap and tried to shovel a pass forward which ultimately landed in the hands of El Campo’s BJ Flagg who ran it 74 yards for the score.
The third quarter didn’t fare much better for Rudder, which continued to have trouble moving the ball offensively, and gave up three more rushing scores, including a 62-yard run by Davis for his second touchdown of the game. The Ricebirds had 232 rushing yards in the second half on 28 attempts, compared to just one pass attempt.
Facing a 55-6 deficit, the Rudder offense and defense finally came alive with just minutes left in the third quarter, however.
Piper began passing the ball more efficiently, and senior running back Tre Guyton began finding more holes, and put Rudder’s first offensive touchdown on the board with 1:39 left in the third quarter on a 7-yard run up the middle of the field.
The Rudder defense stood strong on a 4th-and-3 situation and slowed El Campo’s running game in the fourth quarter, holding them to no touchdowns in the final 16 minutes of the game and only allowed 43 rushing yards in the fourth quarter.
With a more balanced run-pass offense, Rudder was able to put another touchdown on the board with 4:39 left in the fourth quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by junior Anthony Veal, capping off a 61-yard drive that was largely led by Piper’s passing. Piper finished the second half of the game with 69 passing yards on 10-of-11 completions.
Guyton brought the Rudder fans to its feet with an electrifying 51-yard touchdown run with 2:10 in the fourth quarter, as he broke four different tacklers, and stiff armed a final defender to run down the Rudder sideline for the score, pushing the score to 55-26. Guyton finished the night with 101 rushing yards and the one score.
The efforts were too little too late, however, as El Campo effectively managed the clock in the final minutes of the game, running out time to seal the victory.
Rudder remains at home for its next matchup on September 14, facing off against Magnolia at Merrill Green Stadium at 7:30.