KATY—As potent and prolific as Ridge Point is offensively, perhaps the truly remarkable thing about these Panthers is they are just as impressive defensively.
Often overlooked when it comes to the dual-threat heroics of senior quarterback Bert Emanuel Jr., the power running of senior Ezell Jolly, and the awe-inspiring acrobatics of receivers Marvin Session and Wilson Batiste is a relentless, persistent, violent, playmaking defense that consistently overwhelms opposing offenses.
That was the case in the Panthers' 41-20 Class 6A-Division I area playoff win over Cy-Fair at Rhodes Stadium. Ridge Point scored 28 consecutive points off takeaways in the first half to bury the Bobcats early and hold off an attempted rally late.
"Our coaching staff did a good job of studying film," Ridge Point coach Rick LaFavers said. "They (Cy-Fair) do a lot of stuff offensively with formations and plays, and we felt like we had a beat on them and were able to get our guys in a very comfortable position pre-snap to where we could execute at a high level."
.@RPHS_FB coach @Coach_LaFavers talks to his team after its 41-20 area playoff win over Cy-Fair tonight. #txhsfb @RPHS_Panthers @FBISDAthleticspic.twitter.com/MFxybO9xj9— VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston) 1637380927
Ridge Point (11-1), which plays Atascocita in the regional semifinals Friday at 7 p.m. at TDECU Stadium, has 19 takeaways this season. The Panthers are surrendering just 15.5 points per game. During their nine-game winning streak, they have held opponents to 10 or fewer points four times.
Ridge Point has allowed 10 points, total, scored off giveaways all season.
"They can run, and because of that they really fly to the ball," LaFavers said of a defense orchestrated by coordinator Cedric Allen. "They play very physical, and we feel like we're multiple on defense. We have a lot of guys that can make plays.
"The offense is explosive, but the defense does a really great job of putting fires out and getting the ball back."
Ridge Point led 35-6 at halftime. The final 28 of those points came off a string of four consecutive giveaways by Cy-Fair over a nine-minute span between the first and second quarters—three fumbles and an interception.
The takeaways allowed Ridge Point to start drives on the Cy-Fair 44-yard line, Cy-Fair 33-yard line and the Cy-Fair 17-yard line, respectively, with a 48-yard fumble return for a touchdown by junior defensive back Ryan Ramey sandwiched in between.
"That's really big for the energy," said Ramey, who collected his second fumble recovery this season. "We're really physical and we have a lot of great athletes. It gets the crowd involved. It gets our players excited. We feed off the energy."
The Bobcats (7-4) made things interesting in the third quarter.
After closing the first half with their first touchdown on a Tristen De La Cruz two-yard run, the Bobcats scored on an Owen Carter 39-yard catch to open the second half, recovered an onside kick, and scored again on a trick-play, nine-yard scoring pass from receiver Kyle Chambers to receiver Sebastian Villarreal to cut the deficit to 35-20 with 4:37 left in the third quarter.
But that would be the end of the Bobcats' brief momentum. On the Panthers' next drive, Emanuel sprinted 80 yards down the visiting team sideline for a touchdown and Cy-Fair never got closer.
.@RPHS_FB responds. @BertEmanuel3 doing @BertEmanuel3 things: 80-yard spree down the visiting team sideline. Electric. Panthers up lead to 41-20, 2:48, 3Q. #txhsfb @RP_PantherPride @FBISDAthletics @RPHS_Pantherspic.twitter.com/mzEQxSShD1— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II) 1637377545
"I'm proud our kids didn't flinch and kept battling back, and eventually we were able to put it away," said LaFavers, who lamented his team's third quarter effort as "lax."
Cy-Fair had 285 total yards, 190 of those in the second half. The Bobcats used four quarterbacks.
"Our defense is monstrous," said senior defensive back Terrance Howard, who had an interception that capped off the Panthers' run of takeaways in the first half. "The chemistry and family within us … it all really motivates us. We played as a unit and flew to the ball."
Ridge Point totaled 406 yards. Jolly was the tone-setter with two of the Panthers' first three touchdowns, finishing with 109 tough yards on 14 carries.
"Just go ball," Jolly said of his mindset early in the game. "I can't let my seniors go home."
Emanuel added 145 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries. All of the Panthers' five offensive touchdowns came on the ground.
In all, Ridge Point had 279 yards on 32 carries (8.7 yards per carry) after rushing for 152 yards and one touchdown on 33 carries (4.6 yards per carry) in last week's bi-district win over Seven Lakes.
“We felt like we needed to come in and establish the run,” LaFavers said. “We didn’t run the ball like we wanted to against Seven Lakes. Cy-Fair had shown on film that they were very good at stopping the run, so we were concerned. I’m glad Ezell was able to run, and run hard. It was a lot of yards after contact. We leaned on our O-line, sustained some blocks and it allowed us to keep moving.”