Ridge Point reaches Regional Final for first time ever
By Michael Sudhalter
When B.J. Rainford scores a touchdown, he acts like he’s been in the end zone before.
The Ridge Point High junior calmly tosses the ball to the referee and returns to the huddle.
“I’m not really into all of that celebrating — I’m laid back,” Rainford said.
Rainford has become accustomed to visiting the end zone. He has nearly 1,500 all-purpose yards this season, along with 23 touchdowns.
In the 5A-II Regional Semifinal last Saturday at NRG Stadium, Rainford finished with 38 carries for 185 yards and four touchdowns for the Panthers (10-3) in a 35-27 win over A&M Consolidated (9-4).
Ridge Point advanced to the 5A-II Regional Final at Noon on Saturday at the Alamodome against Angleton (8-5).
The two Houston-area teams agreed to play in the San Antonio indoor stadium, to avoid inclement weather, and NRG Stadium is unavailable this weekend.
Fort Bend ISD Athletic Director Philip O’Neal said the Panthers will depart for San Antonio early Saturday morning.
Many high school football prognosticators expected this to be something of a rebuilding year for the Panthers, who advanced to the Regional Semifinals with a 12-1 record last season.
Ridge Point lost the first two games of the season, against 6A opponents Clear Creek and Hightower, respectively. Both of those teams finished undefeated in the regular season but have since been eliminated from the playoffs.
“I knew that it was just a bad start — I knew we’d get it together in the long run,” said Rainford, who credits former RP running back Remus Bulmer — now at Sam Houston State — with helping him learn the game at the varsity level.
The Panthers’ other setback was a 35-28 loss to archrival Elkins in a Thursday night game in October.
In last Saturday’s Regional Semifinal, the Panthers had a second punt blocked. Senior punter/kicker Grant Carlson, who hasn’t had a carry all season, somehow picked up the blocked punt and carried it 22 yards for a first down.
“By the Grace of God, he picked it up and knew what to do with it,” Ridge Point head coach Brett Sniffin said.
Carlson, who has committed to Boston College has a placekicker, kept the momentum on the Panthers’ side, but Ridge Point needed a late defensive stand to stop the Tigers.