Jeremy Payne Hightower

Hightower's Jeremy Payne runs the ball against the Paetow Panthers earlier this season. Payne rushed for 225 yards and a touchdown in last week's regional semifinal, and the Hurricanes will have a rematch with Paetow in the state quarterfinals this weekend at Rice Stadium on Friday. (Photo by Landan Kuhlmann)

A regional power and a familiar face await the two area football teams remaining in the playoffs as they seek to keep their postseason dreams alive.

By this time of the football schedule, it’s the best of the best remaining – and that holds true for both of the area’s two remaining high school teams, who face state-ranked opponents this weekend as the field narrows even further.

Ridge Point (11-1) will face Humble Atascocita (10-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at the University of Houston’s TDECU Stadium in the Class 6A regional semifinal, while Hightower (10-2) faces district rival Manvel (10-2) – a team the Hurricanes have bested once already this season – at 7 p.m. Friday at Hall Stadium in the Class 5A regional semifinal.

The Eagles are fresh off a last-second win over Dickinson last week and will seek a more definitive statement against the Panthers, while the Mavericks will have revenge on their mind when they get a rematch with the Hurricanes, after falling 16-12 earlier this season.

Now onto the games.

Hightower (10-2) vs. Manvel (10-2)

The Hurricanes are coming off a 45-29 victory over Georgetown in the area round, relying on their ground game once again. Sophomore running back Jeremy Payne is a name to watch in this one, as he has rushed for at least 200 yards and multiple touchdowns in playoff wins over Port Arthur Memorial and Georgetown. He ran for 100 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in Hightower’s 16-12 win over the Mavericks earlier this season on Sept. 23.

For the Mavericks, there really is no secret to their game. The offense begins with senior running back De’Monte Seymore (1,715 yards, 27 touchdowns), who is coming off a monster performance in the area round when he ran for 381 yards and four touchdowns in the Mavericks’ 41-31 win over Weiss. Receiver Isiah King can’t be overlooked either, as he has caught a touchdown in both of Manvel’s playoff games so far.

Ridge Point (11-1) vs. Humble Atascocita (10-2)

Ridge Point’s running game carried the Panthers in a 41-20 win over Cy-Fair in the area round, with a 287-yard attack led by a pair of 100-yard rushers accounting for all five offensive touchdowns. Ezell Jolley ran for 118 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Bert Emanuel Jr. ran for 140 yards with three touchdowns and added 123 yards through the air. Emanuel has been a true dual threat all season (3,268 total yards), and is only 42 rushing yards away from the 1,000-yard mark in addition to his 2,310 passing yards.

Quarterback Zion Brown threw five touchdown passes and rushed for another in the Eagles’ bi-district win over Deer Park on Nov. 12, while running back Tyras Winfield ran for two scores in their 22-21 come-from-behind win over Dickinson in the area round last weekend.

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