Oftentimes, “instant classic” is hyperbole.
Not Friday night at Bill Ruple Stadium on the campus of Neville High School as the Tigers (1-0) won by a final score of 27-24 over the Ruston Bearcats (0-1) in a wild fourth quarter that saw three lead changes and four touchdowns.
“I told them at halftime that those guys won’t quit,” Ruston head coach Jerrod Baugh said. “They came out and played hard in the second half. Our kids kept clawing back in the fourth quarter and stayed the game. We have to learn to hit the gas when we have a lead in the ballgame and score touchdowns.”
Despite trailing for a majority of the night, the Tigers retook the lead 20-17 with 9:06 left to go in the ball game on a 70-yard touchdown run by senior running back A. J. Allen for Neville.
Ruston answered with a four-yard touchdown rush by Dyson Fields at the 1:40 mark in the fourth quarter to go up 24-20. The junior tailback finished the night with 192 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
When it looked like Ruston could seal the deal on defense on 4th and 20, senior Tiger quarterback Brett Batteford launched a 62-yard touchdown pass to Allen to convert the Hail Mary with 35 seconds to go, which proved to be the winning touchdown on the night.
”We had pressure on the quarterback on that play,” Baugh said. “I thought we had him before he was able to get the pass off.”
Ruston led 17-7 at halftime after outrushing Neville 160 yards to 37 and held the ball in the first half for nearly 20 minutes compared to four for the Tigers. The only touchdown Neville scored in the opening quarter was a 97-yard kick off return for a touchdown.
Baugh reiterated how confident he is in his team for this season despite the tough loss.
“The best thing about this is that it’s only week one,” Baugh said. “We have a lot of learning to do for our young guys and can build on the good things from tonight. I think we have a chance to be a really good football team this year. We’re going to get to work tomorrow and keep getting better.”
The competition for Ruston will not slow down from here; the Bearcats will head to Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La., on Saturday, Sept. 11, at 3 p.m. to take on the Oxford Crusaders out of Mississippi. The game will kick off at 3 p.m. with the pregame show starting at 2 p.m. The broadcast will be live on The Peach 99.3 FM.
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