Baugh, Bearcats preparing for Friday opener

RJ Brown will handle the place-kicking duties for the Bearcats in Friday night’s opener.

By Malcolm Butler

Following Tuesday afternoon’s practice at James Field at Hoss Garrett Stadium, Ruston High School coach Jerrod Baugh talked about the upcoming season opener set for Friday night at 7 p.m. against Warren Easton High School. 

Warren Easton is ranked 2nd in the preseason Louisiana Class 4A polls after finishing as the state runner up to Westgate last year. 

The contest between the two powerhouse programs should be one of the marquee match-ups in the state in the first week of the year. And it will be the first of two games between the two programs, both which will be played in Ruston. 

“I talked to (Coach Jerry Phillips) and it wasn’t until way back in March before we got everything ironed out,” said Baugh. “They were looking for a game. It’s one of those things where I saw it maybe on GeauxPreps where they have games posted or on the LHSAA website which has games posted. 

“I try to find the best competition that we can find. I called both Westgate and Warren Easton. They played in the state championship in Class 4A. It didn’t work out with Westgate. The coach at Warren Easton was interested. We worked it out where they’re going to come here both years, and we are going to help them pay for some of their travel expenses so come up here. I’m glad it worked out that way.”

The good news for the Bearcats who are ranked No. 5 in Class 5A in the preseason polls is that running back Dyson Fields looks to be fully recovered from a scare during Saturday’s jamboree against West Monroe. Fields left the game in the first half and never returned. 

Baugh said he expects his all-state bell cow to be ready to roll Friday.

“He’s been good,” said Baugh. “Good. He got a little treatment. In fact (Tuesday) morning he came in with Coach Hogan and did an early morning workout. Then he worked out during the fourth period lifting weights. Then he was full speed out here; full go today. He’s a tough kid, and he wants to be out there. I thought that was good to see. We did some live stuff today, and he was getting after it.”

Both Ruston and Warren Easton will be in the same boat on Friday, facing the challenge of playing a talented team without a lot of film. Baugh did say the two teams exchanged film from their spring scrimmage, fall scrimmage and fall jamboree.

“It’s tough,” said Baugh. “You’re trying to put a pencil to it and see what they’re doing. But a lot of it early on is game-time adjustments. It’s strange. It’s tough at the beginning of the season. Ultimately you put a plan together for what things they consistently do over whatever the game span is. We normally trade film from the last three games, and that’s what we get our data from. But as always, you have to make game-time adjustments.”

Towards the end of Tuesday’s practice, the Bearcats were working on special teams where Baugh said RJ Brown will handle the kicking duties for Ruston while Will Fendley will handle the punting duties. 

However, the injury bug has bitten another key special teams position according the Baugh.

“We’ve lost two holders so far,” said Baugh.  “Matt Garrett started out being the holder and then his appendix ruptured and had to have it taken out. He’s going to be out for a few more weeks. We had Peyton Martin holding this past weekend, but he’s been sick. So Will (Fendley) is actually going to be the holder for PAT/field goals for us. 

“We were working on that today, and we will work on it again tomorrow. We are on our third team holder which is very very rare. In 20-something years of coaching I’ve never had that happen. I thought Will did a good job today. They will share the kicking duties on Friday, and hopefully we’ll get Peyton or Matt back at some point.”

Tickets are on sale at the Ruston High School Ticket Office in the main lobby of the school from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

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