Ruston’s Baugh reflects on 2021 season 

RUSTON, La. — If you’re a fan of Ruston High School football, then it would be hard to not be impressed by the fourth straight trip to the quarterfinals in the LHSAA 5-A State Playoffs. 

With the playoff run has come the first 10-win season in over two decades for the program this past season and a share of the District 2-5A Championship. 

And when you talk to head coach Jerrod Baugh, you walk away sensing his pride in the program, the job the kids have done, the appreciation for the community, and also that there is still another step for his program to take. 

But first, he looked back on the job well done for a group of seniors who started at Ruston High as freshmen only winning one game in their first season as Bearcats. 

“This senior group struggled through a rough freshman year,” Baugh said. “To just see how those kids had their football experience start, but then believe in what the coaching staff told them, they worked themselves into a position to have an opportunity for a 10-win season for the first time since 1999. For those kids to come that far from where they started as freshmen, they are to be commended as a group. These seniors have done their part of keeping the good tradition of football here at Ruston. I’m pleased and proud of this senior group.” 

After losing a heartbreaker at Neville in the season opener, Ruston rattled off eight straight wins, including against two teams in Carencro and St. Thomas More who were state champions the previous season. Ruston also held off Alexandria at home in district play, who played for the 5A State Championship in 2020. 

“I think our go team came a long way,” Baugh said. “I was really concerned about the inexperience that we had going into the season. It had a good nucleus of guys, but I was overall concerned in certain spots. I thought those guys came along fast than I anticipated. I saw flashes early on in the season for what looked like a good football team, and I think we turned into that.” 

At the end of the regular season, Ruston found itself in an unfamiliar position: favored at home to beat a West Monroe team that had already lost to both Neville and Ouachita during the regular season. All week long, the Ruston community buzzed with anticipation for a meteoric upset, but after packing James Field at Garrett Stadium to capacity, the moment slipped away and West Monroe ended the Bearcats’ streak of eight straight. 

Following the regular season, the Bearcats won a pair of home playoff games: first against Covington and then Benton. Their season concluded this past Friday night in South Louisiana to the No. 4 ranked Destrehan Wildcats by a final score of 24-10. 

The next step for Baugh and the Bearcat football program is to take the proud expectation of making the quarterfinals every year and break through. He is going to continue to be the architect for a program that will become capable of doing that, hopefully next season. 

“I think we’re very close,” Baugh concluded. “What our kids have to realize is that what has separated getting into those games (the semis and finals) is that your margin of error is very small. Paying attention to the very finest points of the ball game and taking care of the football; they have to realize that mistakes are detrimental and can be the turning point of the ballgame that can end your season. We’ve played some great teams in the quarter finals over the last four years, and we have not made the plays that we need to make to win those games. We have to be trained to not make those mistakes in those big ballgames.” 

Baugh was adamant about how much he, his staff, and the kids appreciate the community support all year long, and he challenges the Ruston community to pack the stands for all home games and make a strong showing on the road, as well. 

“There have been times where I saw more support this year than in years previous,” Baugh said. “There was a lot of excitement behind the sellout crowd against West Monroe, and that took our kids by surprise. It kind of turned into a distraction for us. I would challenge our fan base to make that type of crowd our kids are used to. If our kids could grow accustomed to that, it would be good to see. And I am very appreciative of what our fans do for us. That shows me and our kids that if there was always that interest every Friday night and make it a habit every week, that would be good for the kids, the program and for the community, as well.”