Like many of you, I attended the Ruston High semi-final football game this past Friday night. I am not originally from Ruston. I don’t have a child playing on the team or attending the school. I have no connection to Ruston High School whatsoever. However, I do love high school football and have followed this team all year long. Now living in Ruston, I find myself pulling for this team as they have fought their way through a very challenging schedule.
Being a part of the Minden High football and baseball teams of the early 1980’s that made state championship runs, I saw so many similarities leading up to the game. Almost forty years later, there were still store windows being painted throughout the town on game week. There were still people decorating car windows red and white. There was that same buzz around town leading up to game day. The same excitement that brought the Minden community together back then, brought the Ruston community together last week.
Friday night was everything I remembered about semi-final and state championship playoff games. The stadium was packed with people from all parts of town with an overflow crowd standing ten deep around the fence just trying to catch a glimpse of the action. Like Minden, people came from different socio-economic backgrounds, different racial backgrounds, different political viewpoints, and different in many ways. They all came with a common theme and purpose: to support and cheer for their Bearcat football team. Forty years ago, I watched a similar occurrence from the field, but Friday night I got to experience it in the general admission seating.
The Zachary football team was a very formidable opponent Friday night. They were obviously very talented, very big, and very successful. However, they were not just playing the Bearcat football team Friday night. With the student section packed in the endzone, the home stands at capacity, and even more people lining the fence, Zachary was facing the entire Ruston community. These weren’t passive, idle fans observing a game. This crowd was engaged in every play from the opening kickoff until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
I was so impressed with the Bearcat team. They mix old school, I-formation power football with progressive offensive sets running the same basic plays. They play a very aggressive, attacking defense from multiple line fronts that are constantly changing and altering with varied blitz schemes. Like the Ruston community, they do such a great job of mixing so much variation into a cohesive team that appears to be united with one purpose in mind.
Not only did Ruston win the game, but the community support was also outstanding! I am not a Ruston High alum, but as the game ended Friday night, I could not have been happier for RHS and the Ruston community. As I made my way under the bleachers and started my walk home, my thoughts reverted to back in Minden, and I thought I heard that thundering “roll-tide-roll” chant from so many years ago. I know it was just a distant memory, but it is one that I will never forget.
I am sure the Bearcat coaches and players will have similar memories that they will also always treasure. I wish this team the very best as they travel to the dome and battle for the 5A state championship. Regardless of the outcome, they will have the entire community behind them, and that is a great thing!