By Kyle Roberts
At halftime, Ruston had plenty of questions on how to flip the script against the Ouachita Lions in the second half after trailing 13-7.
The answer to each question turned out to be simple: senior running back Dyson Fields, who scored five total touchdowns (four of which came in the second half) on the night and rushed for 208 yards on 31 carries, leading the Bearcats to a 37-16 victory over the No. 17 Lions to advance to the quarterfinals in the 2022 Non-Select Division I playoffs.
“As much experience as Dyson has, he likes the challenge of putting the team on his back” Ruston head coach Jerrod Baugh said. “He’s a really physical runner in there, and he took the game over. Normally, we like to rotate our running backs, but when Dyson gets to feeling it, he’s hard to stop. He’s earned that, and I’m glad he’s on our football team.”
On a night where nothing went right in quarters one and two, the second half proved explosive for the Bearcat offense, which scored 30 total points, and 23 points in the fourth quarter alone.
“I challenged the kids to really come out in the second half,” Baugh said. “They answered that and played a lot better. At this time of year, you can’t take a half off. Hopefully we learned our lesson.”
Ruston struggled in the first half against a Ouachita offense that seemed to move the ball at will. Junior running back Carldell Sirmons appeared to be much healthier than in the first outing between the two teams and was used as both a tailback and slot receiver. The Bearcat offense appeared to be stagnant, as well.
“We did not look like we were ready to play,” Baugh said. “I’m not sure what the reason for that was. I thought we had pretty good practices for the last two week. I think we took for granted what the score was in the first ballgame. Hats off to Ouachita and (head coach Todd) Garvin. Those guys did a really good job putting in some different things we hadn’t seen, and we knew they would, but we did know what those things would be.”
The Bearcats got their first touchdown after a bizarre turnover in their favor in which junior linebacker Jadon Mayfield stripped Sirmons at the goal line and returned the ball 58 yards to the Ouachita 42-yard line. Fields scored his first touchdown of the night with 11:29 to go in the second quarter from 2-yards out to give Ruston a 7-0 lead. Ouachita would score 13 unanswered points to go into halftime up 13-7.
Ruston indeed changed the narrative to start the second half by putting together a 70-yard, 18-play drive capped off by Fields second rushing touchdown to give the Bearcats a 14-13 lead. Ouachita would reclaim the lead after a field goal 16-14, before Ruston rattled off 23 points, all coming from Fields touchdowns.
The Bearcat defense rose to the challenge, as well; holding the Lions to only three points and two first downs in the second half.
Ruston will travel to No, 9 Denham Springs to take on the Yellowjackets Friday for a chance to head to its first semifinal game since 1999.