Jackson records “thriller” in big game

Aaron Jackson hauled in three TDs in a 27-21 win over Neville Friday night. (photo by Josh McDaniel)

By T. Scott Boatright

Football coaches love going with the hot hands.

And during Friday’s 27-21 win for the Ruston Bearcats over Neville, nobody’s hands were hotter than Aaron Jackson’s.

Or softer. Or stronger. Or stickier, as the senior receiver’s hands hauled in six passes for 129 yards and three scores

After playing two seasons for the Bearcats, Jackson spent his junior season playing for Neville before returning to Ruston this summer and becoming a force as an RHS receiver.

“We knew what a good receiver he was and missed him when he was gone last year,” said RHS coach Jerrod Baugh. “We’re glad he’s here. Obviously he makes a big impact for our football team. 

“Neville was  stacking people in there because they knew we were going to try and run the football. But that left (Jackson) matched up one-on-one, and he can win those most times.”

Baugh said he’s not surprised at the impact the 6-2, 175-pounder has made halfway through his senior season. 

“We’ve known how good he can be since he was in junior high,” Baugh said. “I’m proud of him and glad he got a chance to make some plays. It’s been a good change for him and us since he’s come back and it was good to be able to throw the ball a little the way we did tonight.”

Averaging 21 yards per reception against a Neville team that held the run-first Bearcats to 134 total rushing yards was a factor Baugh knows was big in helping the Bearcats get the win. 

“It was a really big,” Baugh said of Jackson’s performance. “(RHS quarterback) Jaden (Osborne) threw the ball well, too. It’s about finding a way. Last week it was lining up and running the football. We keep shooting ourselves in the foot letting it get close late, but we’re finding ways to win, and that’s what counts most of all.”

Six of Osborne’s nine completions on the night went to the teammate he’s playing throwing to for years now

“Our chemistry is building, but it’s been building a long, long time,” Osborne said of his teamwork with Jackson. “We’ve been playing together since we were 12. The chemistry has always been there and when he came back it was like he never left.

“But playing more and getting more experience has helped us both. We kind of know what each other are thinking and what we need to do to get the job done.”

Hard work has also helped strengthen their relationship.

“After practice, when (kickers) are kicking field goals, he’s throwing fade balls to me,” Jackson said. “He’s comfortable throwing to me and I comfortable catching it.”

It was Jackson’s second touchdown – an 11-yard skyball from Osborne – that was his prettiest reception on the night as he grabbed air to go up and haul in the score.

“I saw the safety wasn’t playing over the top and wasn’t expected, so I just threw it up there and let him get it,” Osborne said. “I knew if I did that, then he’d make the play.”

It was a play Jackson said he knew he had to make.

“I knew it was mine,” Jackson said. “I saw it up there and saw it was floating down to me and I just had to go up and make the play. I had to go up and get it.”

Jackson hauled in his third touchdown on a 17-yard scoring strike from Osborne with 5:47 remaining. 

But Jackson was ejected after the score for a second penalty for too much celebrating.

“He’ll be back next week,” Baugh said. “That second unsportsmanlike was because he shook some hands over the sideline. I’m not totally sure what that was about. We’ll see. But he’ll back next week.”

Jackson said he was surprised by the ejection.

“I didn’t expect that,” Jackson said of the call and the ejection. “I did it a couple of weeks ago and they didn’t call it. I was just dapping people I’ve known for a long time.”

Jackson admitted that spending a season as a Tiger helped as he faced them again as a Bearcat.

“I know what they like to do,” Jackson said. “Practicing against them as much as I did last year, I know those guys. I wanted this game bad. We knew it’s always a big game when Ruston plays Neville. It was very important for me. I wanted to beat them, but all the guys knew this was a big game for all of us. We needed to beat them and keep pushing forward.”

When asked about the key to his receiving ability, Jackson didn’t have to think about the question.

“It’s the hands,” Jackson said about the key to his ability. “I just love catching footballs.”

And with performances like the one he turned in against Neville, the 4-1 Bearcats are likely to stay with those hot hands as they move into the second half of the season.

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