By T. Scott Boatright
Iron sharpens iron.
But gaining glimpses of the future can be a winning proposition, too.
And it’s for those reasons and more that Ruston High School’s Fan Day/Scrimmage was a triumphant experience for all on a sultry Friday evening at L.J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium.
The turf on T.L. James Field was more like a griddle than a gridiron, but that didn’t deter a Bearcats’ squad determined to take care of “Unfinished Business.”
That was the slogan on the T-shirts the Bearcats, coming off the team’s run to the Class 5A championship game last season, wore as they were introduced during the Fan Day part of Friday night’s festivities with temperatures hovering above the 100 degree-range.
But the real heat came on the field during an intrasquad, with shade slowly flowing from west to east across the sweltering turf while the Bearcats took on each other in an intrasquad scrimmage.
“I think the crowd here says it all,” Bearcats coach Jerrod Baugh said. “It’s 100 degrees out here and our fans are still out here supporting us. We’re all in this together and we’re going to keep on trying to win it together.”
During the scrimmage, it was iron sharpens iron, admittedly the expected result when one of the state’s best offenses collides with one of the state’s top defenses.
But maybe the biggest takeaway from Friday’s scrimmage is that the Bearcats have a stable full of young running backs ready to answer a call up to varsity should circumstances arise.
“It wasn’t bad. I wanted to get a few snaps with all the groups out here on video – get them out here with the band and the crowd, with a lot of racket going on. I talk about it practice all the time when we’re out here by ourselves,
“We learn how to communicate out here with nobody here, and it’s a little bit different when you add a good-sized crowd and the noise and all of that. There’s a ;lot of things that aren’t necessarily football-related that they need to go through — what we get out of this. There’s a learning experience I think we’ll need going into some of the games we have ahead.”
Baugh admitted getting the RHS freshman and junior varsity teams into play was part of the plan heading into the scrimmage.
“We specifically talked about that before the scrimmage — looking at some younger guys and seeing what the future might look like,” Baugh said. “I think all the kids did well. There’s some things to work on, but I think we’re making some progress.”
Field temperatures on the T.L. James Field turf hovered well over 120 degrees when the scrimmage started. But the smoldering heat didn’t seem to bother the Bearcats during the blistering practice.
“We’ve been practicing earlier in the morning — until 10 o’clock when it really starts getting hot,” Baugh said. “But I think that still has prepared them for this. You’ve got to be in shape. You see teams wearing down in the third and fourth quarter when they’re not used to it.
“But when it gets to the regular season and it’s still 100 degrees, it’s bad if you’re not ready. But our kids are doing a great job of staying hydrated. I know they get tired of me talking about it, but we’ve consistently kept preaching it and they’ve done a really good job taking care of themselves.
Junior varsity running backs Jeremiah Freeman and Nolan Parnell both made the most of their scrimmage opportunities.
“He’s had a little trouble holding on to the ball sometimes but he’s got a lot of the same moves kind of like Jordan does as far as his shifitness and all of that. He had a really good day as did Nolan Parnell with the third group.
“Both of those guys have come a long way in a short period of time and I’m expecting some good things in the JV games. And we;ve talked about what would happen if we had some injuries at running back, and I think we can get some snaps out of those two guys if we should need them.”
That junior high to high school football pipeline is something Baugh said was discussed earlier Friday.
“Earlier today in pregame meetings we talked about that,” Baugh said. “You want to make sure to make sure when you have a three-year starter graduating, you have another guy ready to step in there. That’s what we’ve done at quarterback with Jaden Osbourne and now handing it over to Josh Brantley.
“We’ve known since Josh was in junior high that was going to be the transition. He worked his way into things doing some really good things with the scout team last year and he’s put himself right in the position to jump in there and make some plays for us. He’s been the perfect match-up for what we want from junior high to high school, because we knew back then we would be a good fit once he got to varsity.”