By T Scott Boatright
After practicing in shells Monday-Wednesday, the Ruston Bearcats held their first full pads preseason practice on Thursday, and continued picking up their pace while doing so.
“We started slow on Monday,” said RHS coach Jared Baugh. “I guess it took us a while to get going. That was the first time the kids practiced in shoulder pads since spring practice, so I guess that adjustment took getting used to.
“But every other day — Tuesday, Wednesday and today, the first day in full pads, went well. There’s been a high level of intensity and competition, and that’s always good to see this early.”
Baugh was particularly pleased seeing his inexperienced offensive linemen getting after it in full pads.
“They’re not necessarily young, but we don’t have much varsity experience up front on offense,” Baugh said. “That’s an area we’re keeping an eyeball on for sure.
“I thought they looked pretty good without going back and looking at video yet. My initial thoughts are that it was a positive day for them, although there’s always room to grow and some improvements to make. But I thought it was definitely a good start.”
That Bearcats offensive line is going up against a RHS defensive front that does feature solid experience and talent.
“I think that’s gotta help our offensive line having to go up against those guys in practice,” Baugh said. “We do a lot of first group vs. first group work, and I think that’s always beneficial for our guys, and I think our O-line is getting the chance to compete against some high-quality guys.
“So once we get into a ball game, that should be something they’ve looked at and faced in practice. The defense may line up differently than we do in a real game, but as far as the caliber of players that they’re going to see, they will have seen that in practice and hopefully all of that will make us better in the long run on both sides of the ball.”
Baugh said the newcomer Bearcats seem to be playing at the same pace and knowledge level as the RHS vets.
“We do quite a bit of football stuff throughout the summer -— a lot of individual work after we’re done with weights and conditioning, and I think they’ve retained a lot of that information,” Baugh said. “Then we take one day out of the week (in the summer) and practice in helmets, so they hear a lot of football stuff during the summer. We do that so that they can retain those things and it’s not like starting back over.
“They’ve done a good job of that throughout the summer and it’s helped early in preseason practice and kind of pick up where we left off.”
Bearcat Madness will be held at 6:30 p.m. today with a meeting for parents starting in the “Chick” Childress Field House starting at 5:30 p.m. Hamburger plates, drinks and Kona Ice will be available for purchase, and free Blue Bell Ice Cream will be available as long as it lasts.
Fans attending Bearcat Madness will not only get their first good look at the 2022 RHS squad. They’ll also get to see and experience the newest addition to L.J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium — chairback seats in the reserved section on the home side of the field.
“I’m very proud of those and it’s been a long time coming,” Baugh said. “Being able to get the circumstances done so we can do that for our fans — it wasn’t easy to find the means to do it but we’ve been fortunate enough that we’ve been able to figure out how to get that done — only adds to the great experience that fans have when they come into the stadium.
“They’ll be able to enjoy football and be more comfortable while they’re there. That stadium is obviously one of the best stadiums, if not the best, in the state and the region, and I think the seats are just going to add to a really good fan experience for a ballgame.”
The Bearcats will hold an instraquad scrimmage right after Bearcat Madness.
“I told the kids there are some things we need to work on tomorrow at the end of Bearcat Madness,” Baugh said. “But I really want to give our fans and community an opportunity to see our kids and give them a snippet of what they can expect to see at a home — or away -— ballgame to give them an idea of what that’s going to look like. “
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