Memories to championships past, and to come

By T. Scott Boatright

I am a Ruston Bearcat. It’s in my blood. Or my bloodline, anyway.

Most people know that I grew up in New Orleans. But my father grew up in Ruston, and my mother in Quitman. And I spent much time in my youth hearing stories of the mighty Bearcats football team.

And the fact that the Ruston High football team is playing for a state championship tonight in the Superdome has brought many memories flooding back to me.

My father was a member of the 1947 RHS state champions football team. So I heard many — and I do mean many — stories about the legendary L.J. “Hoss” Garrett as well as assistant coach “Moose” Phillips over the years.

And days like today, with the Bearcats on the Division I Nonselect School championship stage, have me thinking much about my dad.

When I came to college at Louisiana Tech and starting writing for The Tech Talk as well as stringing for the Monroe and Ruston newspapers, I added the fiirst initial of my first name to my byline. You see, I was (and still am) extremely proud to be Tommy Boatright’s son, and I wanted everyone around to realize that I was his son. That T. is a nod to him. Before moving to Ruston I was “Scotty,” but as I began forging my way into the future as a writer, I became “T. Scott.”

It didn’t take long at all for people to make the connection. My mentor in the Louisiana Tech journalism department — Wiley Hilburn, another legend himself, used to love to talk to me about remembering my father on the football field. Others a little younger than my father, like Johnny Maxwell, James Davison and Dr. Pat Garrett, son of the legendary “Hoss,” still talk to me about my dad, remembering a player who played with ability and toughness that was much bigger than his actual stature.

In my living room there is a picture given to me by Pat Garrett and his sister Loyce of that 1947 RHS state championship team with the players’ names underneath the photo written in hand by their mother in a beautiful form almost like calligraphy.

It’s a prized possession that I admit moved me to tears when they gave it to me.

But my RHS memories are about much more than my father.

I went with him to the 1982, ’86 and ’88 championship games, and then again in 1990 when I was in graduate school and rode down to New Orleans with my cousin Wayne Parks and his family. Like I said, the Bearcats are in my blood, even if I didn’t earn my diploma there, my family, including my dad, Wayne, his kids Ken and Cherie, and another cousin, Amy Boatright, all graduated from RHS.. So by blood anyway, I am a Bearcat.

I also have a “brother” who graduated from Ruston High and was a true Bearcat through and through.

The late Hall of Fame sportswiter OK “Buddy” Davis was part of our family, and no one covered the Bearcats longer or better than he did. And I sure do miss him today. He would be relishing in the fact that the Bearcats have returned to the ’Dome.

And there are other former Bearcats who have passed away that are in my memories today.

Three were part of that 1982 championship team I watched while I was a student at LSU before transferring to Tech — Jessie Winzer, Richie Sims and Michael Williams. I know I’m not the only one thinking about that trio today and wishing they could be joining today’s party in the Superdome.

And who could forget one of the most talented Bearcats ever who was a driving force on the 1990 state championship team? The late Roymon Malcolm ran wild in that championship game win over Catholic-Baton Rouge, just as he did against every opponent that magical undefeated season that saw the Bearcats become the first team from Louisiana named “national champions.”

Win or lose, memories are what tonight will be all about. The 1984 and ’98 Bearcat teams that fell in state title showdowns still have wonderful memories of those seasons.

Memories have been what this 2022 season has been about. Memories of the past. Memories of those no longer with us. And building memories for the future.

But today there’s one main thing for the 2022 Bearcats to remember — let’s do this Ruston. Let’s take state.