By T. Scott Boatright
Dual-sport punter/kickers are nothing out of the ordinary for the Ruston HIgh School Bearcats.
Caleb Phillips, now a redshirt/freshman punter/kicker for the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, was both a football and soccer standout for the Bearcats.
Last year’s RHS punter/kicker Brady Beason, who waited in the wings behind Phillips before getting his starting shot, earned the nickname “fastest kicker in America” after serving as both a standout sprinter and P/K for the Bearcats.
And when the Bearcats hit James Field at L.J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium on Saturday for the RHS spring scrimmage/game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday against Ouachita Parish High School, it will be Bearcats catcher RJ Brown handling kicking duties for Ruston.
The format for the spring game/scrimmage designed by game referees will open with what Baugh called a “couple of kicking game deals to get a look at kickoff and maybe some onside kicks and some extra point/field goals just to work the kicking mechanics as far as the officials are concerned.”
“It’ll give us some time to get a look at our kicking game, and that will be good for us because that’s something we need to look at.”
That will be followed by what Baugh termed “some situational stuff” with the ball placed at certain points on the field under various situations such as red zone and goal line drills.
Then a live 15:00 minute quarter will be held as a regular game-type situation.
“After that, depending on how the game goes, I’m hoping that with not much time left on the clock, with whoever’s got the ball, we can work in an extra two-minute drill at the end,” Baugh said.
Brown was on the Bearcats’ football roster in 2020 as a wide receiver before moving to add depth to the RHS kicking position due to an injury.
“RJ Brown didn’t play football last year, he kind of concentrated on baseball,” Baugh said. “But he came back out this year and they finished their baseball season and he’s taken the lead on that. He’s the oldest one out of the group and is the most experienced even though he didn’t play last year, he’s still a little more experienced than the rest of them.”
Baugh said those others hold promise, too.
“Will Fendly is doing well and we’ve also got (Bearcats pitcher) David Griep that’s out there, as well as Jack Elliott. So we’ve got several guys that are out there competing. And we’ll need freshmen kickers and JV kickers, and we may have to share duties.
“We’ve been fortunate enough with our kicker also being our punter the last few years, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes some guys are better kickoff guys than they are punters, so we may share some of those duties. We’re still working our way through it.”
The Bearcats have solid experience returning at quarterback in two-year starter Jaden Osborne. But Osborne tweaked an ankle during a May 12 scrimmage against Haughton, opening the door for Joshua Brantley to likely see the most time behind center on Saturday against OPHS.
“Jaden dressed out this week and went through some drill work the best he could,” Baugh said. “He’s been going through treatment, but I don’t know that he’ll be ready for live action on Saturday.”
But Baugh said that isn’t a bad thing to get Brantley a little extended playing time in a spring game.
“Josh filled in really well against Haughton,” Baugh said. “Him being able to get those reps with the starters this week has hopefully been an invaluable experience, so I’m completely fine with starting him Saturday if needs be, because that kind of experience for him could be invaluable for us down the road. That’s something he really needs in case he’s needed at some point next season.”
Baugh said the main thing he wants to see Saturday is a faster start than they did in the scrimmage against Haughton.
“You always want a fast start, but talking about it and doing it can be two different things,” Baugh said. “That’s one thing I’ve been disappointed with this spring a couple of times with our practices. It’s almost at times like we’re not ready to go or not wanting to be there. Or it takes us a little while to get going.
“That will be something that we’ll really need to see a better job of because that’s the way the scrimmage went also. So I want to see how the kids are going to handle it on Saturday.”
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