ROSENBERG—'Fight,’ ‘finish,’ ‘effort.’ Those were some of the words Ridge Point coach Rick LaFavers used in describing his team’s 44-14 win over George Ranch in a pivotal District 20-6A showdown Thursday at Traylor Stadium.
"I'm proud of our guys," LaFavers said. "We gave up some plays, but they finished, and I was very proud of that."
The Panthers' 6-1 record, 4-0 in 20-6A, and plus-29.4-point differential may look gaudy, but LaFavers' boys are relying on grit, toughness and resilience these days with three key starters out for the season due to injury.
Oh, and Bert Emanuel Jr. Ridge Point is relying a whole lot on the star dual-threat senior quarterback, too.
Emanuel completed nine of 21 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries against George Ranch for his second five-touchdown game this season.
.@GRHS_Football is on the board, capitalizing on a fumble recovery on a botched RP snap in Panthers territory. Andrew Psyk 10-yard scoring catch from @colejmurphy44. 13-7 Ridge Point, 3:52, 2Q. #txhsfb @WeAreGRHS @GRHSABC pic.twitter.com/TR4O3hMTrh— Dennis Silva II (@densilva02) October 15, 2021
Against the Longhorns, it was Emanuel's legs that got things going with two first-half touchdowns that enabled a 20-7 Ridge Point lead at halftime.
Emanuel ran the ball a lot last season, averaging 45.8 rushing yards on 7.5 carries per game with six rushing touchdowns. But he's running the ball even more this season, averaging 83. 7 yards on 10.7 carries per game with eight touchdowns.
"It's most definitely intentional," Emanuel said about being involved more in the run game. "I want defenses to not just have to worry about me throwing the ball."
LaFavers said the beauty of the offense is that it takes advantage of whatever the defense is giving. Teams choose often to give up the run to prevent the big-play ability of Emanuel and dynamic senior receivers Marvin Session and Wilson Batiste, each of whom caught a touchdown Thursday.
That opens opportunities for junior running back Ezell Jolly (87 yards on 15 carries) and, especially, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Emanuel, who always keeps a defense on its toes.
.@RPHS_FB answers. Quickly. @BertEmanuel3 with another keeper for a score, this one from nine yards out. 20-7, 1:51, 2Q. He’s got 77 yards and two TDs on nine carries. #txhsfb @RP_PantherPride @RPHS_Panthers pic.twitter.com/jq1ZtVYJKK— Dennis Silva II (@densilva02) October 15, 2021
"We feel like we can attack people in the passing game, but if they give us lanes, he's such a big, fast runner, we'll take advantage of that," LaFavers said. "He has a will to win. He's a winner. He fights for yards, he has great vision, and he protects the ball. I'm so proud of him and proud that he's a Panther."
Emanuel said he has matured as a runner, getting better going out of bounds and not trying to pick up every single yard he can get.
"Especially on the sideline when defenders close in," he said. "Just don't put my body on the line."
Otherwise, he picks apart defenses thanks to an improved knowledge of the offense.
Ridge Point has the No. 1 offense in 20-6A, averaging 45.3 points on 442.1 yards per game. Aside from his rushing prowess, which ranks fourth in 20-6A, Emanuel has thrown for 1,296 yards and 16 touchdowns to no interceptions.
"This was a great game, very important," Emanuel said. "I feel like as an offense, we have more of an understanding of the playbook compared to this point last year. There's more chemistry with all of our coaches, being our second year with them."
>> STEPPING UP: The Panthers are a depleted bunch. Senior offensive lineman Calvin Harvey (Louisiana Tech commit) is out for the season with an ACL tear. Defensive linemen Clayton Cherry and DK Kalu are also out for the season with injuries. The defense, still, played admirably against George Ranch, as senior linebacker Dalton Plitt, senior linebacker Mason Hall, senior lineman Kameron Richardson and junior end Cortez Nichols, among others, led a potent, persistent pass rush that produced three sacks. "Those guys are really good," Plitt said of Cherry and Kalu. "It's been hard dealing with that, but it's next man up. We played our defense and made some plays. If we keep building, we'll keep winning." LaFavers was certainly pleased. "We run," he said. "That's one thing we've got is speed. We swarm the ball. It wasn't great all the time, but I love the effort. I'm proud of guys stepping up and finishing."
>> DRINKARD STARS: Senior running back Hymond Drinkard was terrific for George Ranch, rushing for 136 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. He accounted for 54 percent of the Longhorns' total offensive production. Drinkard leads 20-6A in rushing with 752 yards and 12 touchdowns.
>> DYNAMIC DAVIS: Ridge Point junior defensive back Taylor Davis produced the most spectacular play of the night with 2:10 left in the fourth quarter. Davis caught a pass tipped by fellow junior DB Ryan Ramey in the end zone and returned it 108 yards for a pick-6 and the final score of the game. It's Davis's second interception return for a touchdown this season. He leads 20-6A in interceptions with four.
FBL (V): Tip drill in the GR endzone to @TaylorDavis_27 for the 108 yard return!! Is there #SuchAThing? PAT by Gray good! #PantherRanch21 #PantherRiders21 @RGAPMobileLive @RP_Pack @VypeHouston @IHSS_Houston @MaxPreps @HoustonChronHS— Ridge Point HS (@RPHS_Panthers) October 15, 2021
Q4: 2:10 pic.twitter.com/piLSrv5p3b