By T. Scott Boatright
Depth is always something teams try to build during spring football workouts.
Ruston High School’s depth was put to the test Saturday afternoon on James Field at L.J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium as the Bearcats played host to Ouachita for a spring scrimmage game with two of their top offensive weapons out with minor injuries.
The scoreboard at the end of the quarter-long “game session” of the afternoon read 7-7 after the Bearcats scored late on a pass from freshman Joshua Brantley to Jamar Woods.
But RHS coach Jerrod Baugh couldn’t help but feel like it was a win for his Bearcats.
Bearcats starting quarterback Jaden Osborne was out with a bad ankle while a shoulder injury suffered during a practice last week caused starting running back Dyson Fields to also be held out of the scrimmage game against the Lions, putting the onus on Brantley and Jordan Hayes.
Hayes ran well throughout the scrimmage while Brantley seemed to grow with each rep he took, culminating with his five-yard scoring strike to Woods.
“Getting the younger guys reps this time of year is a good thing, because you might need them next fall,” Baugh said. “Hopefully not, but you never know as this spring showed us.
“We had a number of young guys step up and show they have strong potential. Brantley came in there and showed some poise and growth, and that was great to see.”
Ouachita scored on the opening play of the game-part of the scrimmage with a long kick return to paydirt.
Both defenses took control from there, with the Bearcats’ defense getting a stop before taking advantage of a short punt to take possession at the Ouachita 16-yard line with 54.5 seconds left.
Brantley threw three straight incompletions, but the Lions were called for pass interference on the third, giving the Bearcats a first down at the Ouachita 5-yard line before Brantley stepped up into the pocket and fired the touchdown dart to Woods.
“It was good to get into that situation,” Baugh said. “We work that situation in practice. So it was good to get that in there at the end — using timeouts, stopping the clock when they had the ball. Forcing them into a punt situation and then getting the ball back with about a minute left and no timeouts. It’s just a really good game situation to be able to work against another team.
“You can work it against yourself all you want, but you don’t really get the reality check that you get against another team. Getting a pass interference called against them that gave us a first down. That really happens in ballgames. In a real game I probably would have gone for two at the end there, but we haven’t worked on any special two-point plays, so we went ahead and kicked it.”
One position the Bearcats wanted to take a good look at was kicker and punter, and Baugh ended up pleased with what he saw there, too.
RJ Brown and Will Fendley split duties at kicker while Brown did a strong job while handling most of the punting chores.
Fendley had the longest scoring kick of the practice — a 37-yard field goal.
“I’m confident in both of those guys,” Baugh said. “”We’ll continue to work both. It may be a situation where we rotate them early on in the season. But the important thing is that I think both showed they can help us when we need them.”
All things considered, Baugh said he felt it was a good day for his Bearcats.
“We got in a lot of good work that now we can go look at on video and then come back to the players and try to figure out how to make this team better,” Baugh said. “The offense did it when he needed them to. The defense played well. The kickers played well. That kick return they got on us was the worst thing, but that’s something we can learn from and correct.
“Now we have to take what we learned from the scrimmage game and build on it.”
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