Bearcats looking to change history after 31 years

(TICKET UPDATE: As of Tuesday night, there were less than 200 reserved tickets left and less than 300 general admission tickets left. They may sell standing room only. Tickets can be purchased by going to the Ruston High School front office between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.)

By T. Scott Boatright

Thirty-one years ago, an agreement was reached for a two-stage plan to reunite Germany for the first time since World War II.

In the fall of 1990, Tim Berners-Lee created the first web server and the foundation for the World Wide Web, which became better known as the internet.

Later that year, in August, Iraq invaded Kuwait, eventually leading to the Gulf War.

The earliest known digital camera began being sold in the fall of 1990.

But for Ruston High School football fans, 1990 is best remembered as the last time the Bearcats defeated West Monroe on the gridiron.

“I was 14 years old. I guess I was in seventh grade playing a little football at Calhoun Middle School,” RHS head coach Jerrod Baugh said Tuesday afternoon of where he was at that time during the fall of 1990. “But I already knew about Ruston and West Monroe football. I had a really good friend that I spent the night with sometimes when I was in junior high and high school whose dad had played for Ruston and told all kinds of stories. Coming through high school at West Ouachita I had the opportunity to play against Ruston some in the early to mid 1990s. Of course, it didn’t go well for us. You showed up here to play a game and you knew you were in for a battle. Ruston was still really good back then. 

“It’s something the kids now can’t really understand because they weren’t born yet. Some of their parents are barely old enough to remember. I’ve tried to pass that along to some of our players. I’ve had a former (RHS) player, Jeff Williams, who comes in during fourth period every Wednesday and spends 15 or so minutes covering things and providing some history. I think the players have been finding out some of the things I’ve been telling them all along. But there’s only so much information I can pass along because I was still very young back then.”

Legendary RHS football coach Chick Childress guided the Bearcats to their last state championship in 1990. The win over West Monroe that year came over then second-year Rebels head coach Don Shows, who would go on to help turn WMHS into a perennial football powerhouse for the next 23 years, winning eight state titles before his death in 2013.

Since then, the Rebels have defeated the Bearcats 31 consecutive times, including 29 regular season games (they didn’t play in 2020 due to Covid) and two playoff games.

Baugh coached against Shows serving as an assistant at Ouachita and then at Longview, Texas, and realizes the fact that Shows grew up in Ruston and graduated from RHS likely only enhanced the perceived rivalry between the two football teams.

“I think that added some,” Baugh said. “I don’t know for sure but can imagine it was a big thing for Coach Shows to play Ruston — his alma mater — and have a good showing. That’s something I can feel when we play West Ouachita even though that’s not a rivalry by any means. 

“People have asked me about that rivalry and I have to tell them that to me, a rivalry is when sometimes one team wins, other times the other team wins. That hasn’t been the case for 30 years, but we want to turn it back into a rivalry.”

The Rebels will come into Friday’s game at 5-3 overall with losses to Catholic-Baton Rouge, Neville, which also defeated RHS, and Ouachita, which the 8-1 Bearcats defeated. Baugh realizes West Monroe will come in potentially as an angry,  wounded animal, but said that’s par the course for Ruston against Rebels.

“It won’t be any different than it has been in recent years,” Baugh said. “They’re going to be well-coached. People don’t need to overthink it and make the mistake of thinking West Monroe is not a good football team this year. They’ve lost to three really good teams. I think some people have the misconception that they’re fixing to see a bad football team roll up in here. West Monroe is a very good football team, too.”

Baugh also realizes that some of those misconceptions could turn into added motivation for the Rebels.

“They can still win part of the district title if they win on Friday,” Baugh said. “I think that’s a lot of motivation for them. And heck, I think they’ll just want to play well. I think they feel they need a big win. They’ve lost some close games at the very end — games that they’ve traditionally won at the very end. It just hasn’t gone that way for them this year.

“For us, it hasn’t been that way for us. Last year we lost some games against some very good football teams, but this year we’ve been able to get past all of that and find a way to win. That is the only difference between last year’s and this year’s (RHS) team — we’ve played some close games against some very good football teams but we’ve found a way to win.”

While Ruston and West Monroe meeting on the gridiron is always intense, Baugh admits he feels some people might be making a little too much out of this year’s showdown. 

“For a lot of people, this is their state championship,” Baugh said. “I’m happy that we’ve sold a lot of tickets and will have a lot of people in the stands on Friday. But we’re also going to have a home game to start the playoffs next week regardless of what happens Friday night. My expectation for all of those people is that they’ll need to help sell it out again next week for the playoff run down the road. And every home playoff game we have after that I expect the same thing. It’s not a one-game deal. Friday’s game will not make or break us. As far as the playoffs are concerned, do we want to win that game? Yes we do. But all of our eggs ain’t in one basket as far as that is concerned.”

Baugh said one good thing for the Bearcats is he feels good about them healthwise heading into Friday night.

“I think we’re about as good as you could be going into Week 10,” Baugh said. “We’ve had some bumps and bruises. The kids we held out last week just had some nagging injuries. They weren’t major deals but were something that the extra time was going to help for the West Monroe game and the playoffs, and the opportunity just kind of presented itself. That game was played on Thursday so I knew we’d have a long weekend and we kind of held off a lot of contact in practice last week trying to heal up the best we can. In past years there have been times it hasn’t been that way and we were thinking that if we could win a playoff game or two we might get some key players back. But this year I feel really good about where our health is going into Game 10.”

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