RICE — Rice coach Andy Mills is leading his Bulldogs into the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, and this year’s bi-district opponent is sneaky good and explosive.
“They are not what their record says,” Mills said of Lexington’s Eagles (3-7) who have a losing record even after winning the District 8-3A DII title. “Their non-district schedule was really, really tough, and their district is very very tough,” Mills said.
The Bulldogs face Lexington at 7 p.m. Thursday at Waco Robinson High School in the 3A DII playoffs.
Everyone who follows Rice knows how potent the program is at Clifton, which won back-to-back titles when the Cubs played in the same district with Rice, Mildred and Blooming Grove a couple of years ago.
Well, Lexington is a No. 1 seed in the playoffs because the Eagles tied Clifton and Rogers (all with 3-1 records) for the district title and beat Clifton (29-13) and won the tiebreaker by point differential.
“The three teams at the top of that district are all very good,” Mills said.
The Eagles allowed just 34 points in four district games and are coming off a 41-0 win over Hamilton, allowing just 42 yards.
“They’ve got a real good defense,” Mills said. “They’re going to put eight in the box and come after us. They’ve got two outstanding players. Their linebacker (Aaron Allert) leads their defense I talked to a couple of coaches who played them and they said their game plan was to stop (Allert). He can move, and he’s a downhill player. He’ll run you down and chase your quarterback around. We’ve got to do a good job on him.
“On offense they’ve got a kid (Jerod Kerr) and people who have played them who have been successful against them have been able to stop him and keep him from scoring. He can score from anywhere.”
Kerr rushed for 254 yards against Clifton and caught two passes for 77 yards against the Cubs while the Eagles’ defense held Riley Perry, who was Texas Football’s preseason pick for the district’s Offensive MVP, to only 32 yards.
Mills knows his Bulldogs are in for a tough game, but he’s got plenty of confidence in his kids, who have put together another fine season despite some injuries and close games.
Rice has been led by QB Tanner Carlisle (904 yards and 7 TDs) and running backs Jerry Montgomery, who rushed for 489 yards on 66 carries (7.4 average) and six touchdowns and Tommy Bernal, who ran for 331 yards before he injured his hand, and Dakota Jessie (275 yards and a 7.1 average). The Bulldogs used several players and rushed for 1,582 yards.
Elizhah Nezar had another big year, catching 30 passes for 551 yards (18.4) and five TDs, and he made four interceptions.
Rice (6-4) won with an aggressive defense that was led by Brycen Clark, who made 90 tackles, including three sacks and 10 for losses, to go along with three interceptions.
Bernal was right behind him with 72 tackles, including eight for losses. Defensive lineman Angel Banda led the team in tackles for losses with 11, and also had two sacks. Brian Ovalle and Clay Brown had big years on defense as well.
The Bulldogs combined for 18 sacks and 51 plays for losses. Saul Diaz was another key defensive lineman and Montgomery had a big year at linebacker.
Mills said his Bulldogs made the playoffs together.
“It was a team effort,” he said. “We overcame some injuries and we fought to the end. So many of our games came down to the end and our kids were able to finish.”
That’s how Rice got here, and Mills knows his kids will have to step up and fight to the end Thursday.