By Kyle Roberts
It’s hard to tell when I first knew 2022 had the chance to be a special season for Ruston football.
Could have been the jamboree, could have been watching a random midweek practice, could have been a myriad of things that I’ve had the privilege to see from a bird’s eye view on the radio and Bearcat Nation Network video stream that led me to believe something that had felt so out of reach for decades was finally within grasp.
There was just something… different about this one.
After reflecting on Friday night’s win over Zachary, I remember waving to a few friends in the stands through the press box windows after the game was over, holding my hands over my head, finally breathing for what felt like the first time in three hours and realizing: The Bearcats are headed to the Superdome.
Growing up, never in a million years would I have dreamed that I’d have the chance call a game inside the Superdome– the home of my favorite NFL team and the place where high school legends are made– for my alma mater. Now, thanks to this 2022 team, I’ll cross a gigantic item off my broadcast bucket list.
So many schools play football in the fall every year. And only 16 total get to play for a state title.
Some schools have never won a title, much less have played for one. Luckily for us Bearcats, we’ve been there before, and quite a few times at that.
The last time Ruston played for the state title, I was a firmly-founded junior sitting in the stands in the Superdome in 1998, a literal generation ago, watching my classmates clash with the eventual national champion West Monroe Rebels in a 32-14 loss, and forever being scarred by inadvertent whistles (I’ll go to my grave knowing Jack Hunt’s touchdown would have tilted the game).
Watching this team compete week after week has been special, but it’s hard not to recognize the teams that I’ve seen year after year that led the way to this week.
When you’re in proximity to a program where students are happy for each other, smiling at you, playing hard and having fun, you desperately want to find a bottle and keep this atmosphere to use again in the future.
Because, to be honest, the real gem about this season is not just the talent on the field or the construction of an elite coach staff with signature wins. Instead, it’s something so simple and yet uncommon in athletics today: they’re great kids. That makes them that much easier to cheer for.
And you can look back at the numerous Bearcat teams that came before this year’s who paved the way for success. It’s one of the many things I respect about coach Jerrod Baugh: he pays tribute to the young men who laced up their cleats and fought hard to lay the foundation for today.
Regardless of the outcome Friday, this Ruston team has done so much to reignite a passionate fanbase and unite a community. Cars are painted, stores fly red and white banners, and business marquees cheer the Bearcats onward to victory in ways that harkened to ages we thought were long gone. We all want that last win, but I couldn’t be prouder of the team, staff, and school for what has already been accomplished.
It’s been 12 wonderful years for me, personally, in the press box at The “Hoss,” and while I’m looking forward to many, many more, the 2022 season already has enough signature moments to be forever memorable.
A heartfelt thanks to all of you. Now, go get one more.