By T. Scott Boatrght
It’s only a jamboree.
Trying telling that to the Bearcat faithful that flocked to Louisiana Tech’s Joe Aillet Stadium Saturday to watch Ruston High School dismantle West Monroe in all phases of the game en route to 27-6 win to close out the weekend’s Bayou Jamb.
After it all ended, RHS coach Jerrod Baugh wasn’t about to get caught up in the hoopla.
“The thing is, this was a jamboree,” Baugh said. “It isn’t for real until next week against a really good (New Orleans’ Warren Easton) football team. But this jamboree gives us a good indication of where we are at this point. But we can’t have a let down going into next week, especially on a short week.”
It didn’t take long for the Bearcats to take control.
After Ruston’s defense forced and recovered a West Monroe fumble only four plays into the contest, the Bearcats took over at the Rebels’ 43-yard line and mounted a 10-play drive that culminated with quarterback Jaden Osborne fire a 18-yard scoring strike to Aaron Jackson at the 5:544 mark of the first half.
An 18-yard aerial connection from Osborne to Jackson helped set up that first touchdown.
After the Bearcats forced and recovered another West Monroe fumble only three plays into the ensuing possession, Ruston used a 34-yard wheel route pass from Osborne to Dyson Fields down to the Rebels’ 1-yard line at set up Fields powering his way to paydirt on the next way to put RHS up 14-0 with 2:58 left in the opening half.
West Monroe countered with its lone score of the game on the next series as junior quarterback Hayden Frederico launched a long pass that fell right into the receiver’s hands in mid-stride for a 66-yard touchdown pass that cut the RHS lead to 14-6 (the extra point kick failed) with 2:03 remaining before halftime.
After West Monroe stopped Ruston’s first possession of the second half after three plays, the Bearcats forced a Frederico fumble. The Bearcats’ Jadon Mayfiled snatched up the loose ball and scampered around 25 yards to the end zone to push the RHS advantage to 21-6 with 9:43 left in the contest.
Ruston’s Jacob Simmons recovered a West Monroe fumble on the ensuing kickoff, setting up a 22-yard field goal by Brown that gave the Bearcats a 24-6 lead with 8:55 remaining.
Baugh was proud of that “offensive” Bearcats defense that played a big role in the runaway win.
“That’s something we’ve been keying on with the kids — we need all phases, offense, defense and special teams, to work well together,” Baugh said. “ Having a defense that can create turnovers and give the offense scoring opportunities is a good thing.
“I thought our defense ran to the football very well. I was really pleased to see that because that’s really what that group brings to the table — all 11 guys running to the football. That’s what makes a good defense.”
The Bearcats received a big scare in the second half when Fields went down with an apparent ankle injury. But after the game ended Baugh said it wasn’t as bad as initially feared.
“I think he was more scared than anything,” Baugh said of Fields’ injury. “He got over on the sideline and kind of walked it out. He wanted to get back in and I wasn’t going to let because we’ll need him a little bit next week.”
Fields’ injury gave sophomore running back Jordan Hayes extra carries the rest of the way.
“We knew from watching him come up that he’s a really good running back,” Baugh said about Hayes. “We for sure need all of them. That was a good opportunity to get him some snaps and give Dyson some rest.”
Baugh was also pleased with strong games by receivers Jackson, Zhy Scott and Logan Malone, who look like they can add more balance to a RHS offense that was more run happy last season.
“Those are gamechangers for us, especially in the throwing game,” Baugh said of his receivers. “Scott brings size as a basketball player, and getting him out of the gym and out here playing football I think will help him down the road playing basketball, too. We knew when Aaron was a young kid he was going to be a really good receiver, and it’s good to have him back.”
“It was good to see our passing game do well. We spend a lot of time in the spring and summertime going into fall camp continuing to work those things. We’re going to do those things we’re good at. I told the kids we’re not going to keep tinkering with things we’re not good at, and they accepted the challenge as far as throwing and catching the football, so I was pleased to see that.”
Now Baugh has the task of putting Bayou Jamb in the past and getting his Bearcats back on focusing on the season opener against Warren Easton.
“We can act like it’s a jamboree, but I think this one is kinda more than that,” Baugh said. “I think with our jamboree, everybody kind of gauges things off of that — how it turns out against West Monroe before the real season begins.
“But again, I’ll still remind everybody this is a jamboree. But hopefully it will be something for us to build on throughout the season. And it’s better than it being flip-flopped the other way.”