Ruston opens 2021 at Neville

Some things never change.

That includes a Louisiana high school football schedule that includes Ruston vs. Neville. The two teams have met on the gridiron every season since 1931, marking ninety consecutive seasons these two historic powerhouse programs have matched up. The Bearcats come in to the contest winning two in a row over the Tigers.

“It’s no secret that Neville is a really good football program and have been for a very long time,” Ruston High head coach Jerrod Baugh said. “It’s a really good test for us this early in the season. You will know exactly where you stand, win or lose, and you’ll know the things you need to get back and work on for the next week. I expect for us to do some good and bad things just like they will. I want our kids to get out and play hard and compete. We’ll give ourselves an opportunity to win the game if we do that.”

The near century-long streak was nearly snapped as last year’s game was in jeopardy due to the abbreviated schedule in the wake of the coronavirus. However, the matchup was able to be scheduled, and the two teams did not disappoint. Ruston overcame an early 21-0 deficit to win a thriller in overtime, thanks in part to a memorable 4th and goal from the 42-yard line Hail Mary conversion from now junior quarterback Jaden Osborne to Jack Whitaker. The Bearcats ended up winning 38-35 in triple overtime.

Baugh said Neville returns a very experienced squad on both sides of the football that will prove challenging.

“I think their team is really good and will be a good challenge for us,” Baugh said. “(Neville Head Coach Jeff) Tannehill has done a great job as the head coach of the program. You’ll see two football teams out there that do similar things on both offense and defense. I told our kids that who does it the best will come out winning the ball game.”

Last week, Ruston bested the Opelousas Tigers by a final score of 27-0 in the 2021 Bayou Jamb with a solid rushing attack and a defense that pitched a shut out. Neville came up just short to the West Monroe Rebels in an 8-6 loss. Neither game will count in the official win-loss column.

Baugh said how pleased he was with the pressure his team was able to put on the Opelousas offense all evening.

“We only knew that Opelousas ran a spread offense, so we wanted to get after the quarterback,” Baugh said. “That will be the telltale sign for us all year. If you can get pressure on the quarterback with the defensive line and not have to blitz linebackers and send safeties off the edge, that allows you to do things coverage-wise that we like.”

Photo credit: Ryder Britt

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