By T. Scott Boatright
Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat.
The Ruston Bearcats have earned eight Louisiana football state championships over the years — 1925, 1941, 1947, 1951, 1982, 1986, 1988 and 1990.
And all those titles leave more than a few former Bearcats fired up about this year’s squad making it to Friday’s Division I Nonselect School title game, where Ruston will take on Destrehan at 7 p.m. Friday in the Caesar’s Superdome in New Orleans.
W.A. “Dub” Jones is an all-stater from the 1941 state title team who still keeps up with the Bearcats.
The two Bearcats who were selected as all-state selections off the 1951 championship are both long gone — running back Lacey Stinson died in a 1958 car accident while Charlie “Cap” Barham went on to become a successful attorney as well as state senator passed away in 2010.
But a vast majority of the players from the four state championship teams in the 1980s along with 1990 are still around, with many of them following Bearcats throughout this magical season.
One of those is former All-State and NFL defensive back Rodney Young, who won’t be able to attend the game as he is currently on a trip to Mexico with his wife.
“I am so happy for this Bearcat team!,” Young said. “I understand all the hard work the players and coaches put in to get to this point! I am so proud and I will also be a Ruston Bearcat.
This year has brought up great memories from both championship wins. My first memory comes from our first win against Shaw when I had the opportunity to play alongside my brother Michael. The second is from my senior year when we dominated Catholic High. The second championship was the most challenging because everyone put that expectation of winning it all on our shoulders, and we were able to deliver.”
While Young won’t be in the Superdome Friday night, he will be reliving old memories of that 1990 RHS team that went 15-0 and was named the national champion high school team after defeating Catholic of Baton Rouge 52-10 in the Class 4-A title game, while cheering on the Bearcats from afar.
“I have so much respect for the players and coaches from that 1990 championship team,” Young said about the 1990 Bearcats. “We were mature and handled the season with confidence and humility! I won’t be able to make the game because my wife and I are on vacation in Playa Del Carmen, but I will be rooting for Ruston Bearcats!”
David Hogan played on the 1986 and ‘88 state title teams, serving as permanent team captain in 1988 along with Mark Parker.
Hogan’s oldest son Frasier is strength and conditioning coach as well as linebackers coach while his youngest son is a RHS ballboy.
“This year’s team has united the Ruston community and Bearcat fans nationwide the same way it used to go on back in the 80s,” Hogan said. “It’s very exciting to our family and this entire community.”
Bobby Williams, now a vice president at Origin Bank, played on the 1990 RHS championship team and has followed this season’s Bearcats every step of the way..
“It’s been incredible and exciting at the same time to watch this year’s team accomplish what they have,” Williams said. “Anytime an RHS team goes deep into the playoffs you can’t help but think back to 1990. I love watching these kids play and experiencing this moment with them.
“This past Friday several of my teammates and I were on the field after the game, hugging each other and the current players. Bearcat Nation truly is a family and I can’t wait to get back to the Superdome.”
Ruston Police Chief Steve Rogers wasn’t on a state championship team for the Bearcats, but he did play for Ruston in the 1970 semifinals in a loss at West Jefferson.
“They just had more guys and bigger guys than we did,” Rogers said of that semifinal showdown. “But I’ve always said that because of the athletes Ruston has always drawn in since way back before me, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be in the championship mix every year.
“It’s definitely fun to see the excitement this has generated around town and I have a feeling a big part of Ruston will be in New Orleans on Friday night.”
But Rogers said he won’t be part of that party in the Superdome.
“I’ve got an illness in the family and can’t make it down,” Rogers said. “But I’ll definitely be listening on the radio. You know, I’ve gotten where I like just listening to the games on the radio like we did when I was a kid.
“There’s a wonderful sense of nostalgia about it, just like there is with the Bearcats finally getting to play in another state championship.”
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