By T. Scott Boatright
Reading, writing and arithmetic — the fundamentals of being successful in school.
Ruston High School quarterback Jaden Osborne hopes those lessons will translate on the football field.
Osborne will get one last chance to showcase those abilities on the high school level as the top-seeded Ruston Bearcats take on third-seeded Destrehan in the championship game of the Division I Nonselect School Football Playoffs to be held this weekend at Caesar’s Superdome in New Orleans.
Ruston will face Destrehan at 7 p.m. Friday with state bragging rights on the line.
Osborne has already shown his abilities in arithmetic after three years starting under center as quarterback for the Bearcats, recording solid numbers with both his arm and his legs along the way.
The senior has also used three years of experience to continue increasing his football I.Q. and ability to read defenses, something that will likely be a key factor against Destrehan.
But now Osborne wants to add writing to his legacy left at RHS — he wants to write a third chapter in RHS recent playoff appearances against Destrehan.
Osborne has been under center for Ruston’s last two playoff finales — both quarterfinals losses to Destrehan.
The Bearcats’ last two campaigns ended with a 24-10 loss to the Tigers last season after falling 6-0 at home (at Grambling State) in 2020.
RHS head coach Jerrod Baugh feels the frustration surrounding those losses, and he knows his quarterback does, too.
“I think that’s really big,” Baugh said of Osborne wanting a win over Destrehan. “I think he takes it personal that his two years starting that’s the team that has put us out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals. That’s something I don’t think is getting talked about that much. It is a state championship game and obviously that’s really big in itself.
“But I think for our guys that have been around the past two years, they take it personally that those guys have been the ones who put us out and I think for them — beating Destrehan is right up there with winning a state championship. They want to be able to put beating Destrehan in the past.”
Baugh also knows Osborne’s experience could play a key role in Friday’s outcome.
“It’s very big — and paying off a lot,” Baugh said about Osborne’s experience. “Just watching his progression from sophomore to junior to senior year has been good. Having him allows us to do so much on offense, because really, he’s the one that’s in control of how much you can do. You can change up stuff at one position, and another position, but you’re only tweaking for that position. He’s gotta know what everybody’s supposed to do.
“We can only do as much as he can handle. So him being that experience really plays into a part of where you can do a lot of different things, and we do. We do a lot of stuff under center with option stuff where he’s checking things at the line of scrimmage and then you get in the (shotgun) and he’s doing RPO (run-pass option) stuff, and checking stuff with that and doing ‘gun’ reads where he’s reading defensive linemen. We wouldn’t be able to do that if he wasn’t that experienced.”
And because of that experience, Baugh believes that could help Osborne write that championship chapter they both so badly want.
“If he can do that, we can really take advantage of the other players and everything they bring to the table,” Baugh said. “Because if he was limited, we’d only be able to do certain things that would limit the other guys also.”
Osborne admits studying has played a part in his and the Bearcats’ success.
“I try to look at the opposing team as much as I can before a game,” Osborne said. “I don’t try to overdo it, because sometimes what you see in a game isn’t what you’ve seen on film. But I like to be prepared.”
Osborne’s aerial attack has been more vital than ever this season thanks to the emergence of receivers Aaron Jackson, Zhy Scott and Logan Malone, who have helped give the Bearcats their most potent passing game in years.
“Knowing I have those guys that will come down with the ball, that’s very important,” Osborne said. “I know I have some playmakers on the outside.”
Baugh said Osborne’s “attitude” behind center is as important as his athletic abilities.
“He’s shown more excitement this year on scoring plays and all of that, which has been good, but in the middle of a drive you can’t tell that anything really rattles him,” Baugh said. “To me, that calms the people down around him because if his demeanor and body language was bad after bad plays or too good after good plays but haven’t finished scoring the ball — I think that feeds off on all the players around him. To me, that’s how you need to play the quarterback position.”
Osborne said that he knows how much Ruston residents want to read a new chapter for Ruston football.
“The community having our back like they have — a lot of them have witnessed us not winning those big games, has been great” Osborne said. “I don’t try to think about it too much — just use it as motivation.”
But before Bearcat Nation reads a new chapter in RHS football history, Baugh needs his quarterback to use his three years as a starter to read what Destrehan sends against him.
“If you can’t recognize all that stuff, it makes it where it’s not effective,” Baugh said. “That’s just the kind of stuff that makes it easy to do for an experienced quarterback. Inexperienced guys don’t look at all that and get stuck on eyeballing one person or one area to throw the ball. Jaden’s able to see the whole field, see what it is they’re giving us and take advantage of it and move on to the next play.
“We need Jaden to keep doing what he’s been doing. Hopefully the rest will take care of itself.”
That way, Bearcat fans will get the chance to relish a new chapter in RHS football history.