By Kyle Roberts
Hot temperatures and a late C.E. Byrd freshman team bus put the 2023 Fall Scrimmage start for the varsity Bearcats well past sunset.
And it was junior defensive tackle Peyton Bell and junior running back Jordan Hayes that shined brightly in the night for the fans in attendance, leading Ruston to a 20-0 shutout win over the Yellow Jackets.
“Peyton made some big plays,” Ruston head coach Jerrod Baugh said. “Byrd was trying to run some option stuff away from him, and Peyton is so fast that he’s able to come off the edge from the backside and just run people down because he can run so well. And so a lot of those plays really, he wasn’t even on the front side of the play. He was just hustling on the back end and running some stuff down. And that’s what you got to see. He complements those other guys up front and the linebackers really well with the things that he can do whenever the ball is run away from him.”
Ruston’s defense forced an early three-and-out for Byrd’s offense after a long kick-off return to start the live scrimmage, which led to an 80-yard touchdown run by Hayes with 9:35 to go in the first of the two 12-minute halves.
Bell would finish with seven tackles on the night, while Hayes ran for over 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Ruston’s defense held again on Byrd’s second offensive set, but the Bearcat offense was unable to get a first down on the ensuing drive.
After the Yellow Jacket’s run offense ran most of the clock out of the first half, Ruston had first down on its own 20-yard line with :38 on the clock and only ran a couple of plays before the end of the half.
The Bearcats had the ball to start the second half of play, but the series was cut short by an interception at the Ruston 32-yard line. Ruston’s defense again held Byrd to a three-and-out leading to another missed field goal by the Yellow Jackets near the eight-minute mark.
It would lead to another stellar run by Hayes, this time from 71 yards out while breaking multiple tackles for his second touchdown.
Junior tailback Dylone Brooks punched his way into the end zone for the last score of the night with 2:20 left to play.
The defensive effort ended up in a shutout for Ruston.
“We’re going to need to lean on the defense to kind of hold us,” Baugh said. “And, you know, we kind of sputtered around a little bit. The first, of course, Jordan ran the first touchdown, but then kind of spit and sputtered a little bit offensively; really inconsistent, but with inexperienced guys, that’s what we’re going to see early on and we’ll be trying to work on that, obviously.
“But defensively, we’re going to have to play consistently to try to help us. So we’ve got some things obviously to work on. We’ll come in tomorrow and watch video and work out, and kind of move our normal Saturday morning workout to Friday. And so that was really good with us moving this scrimmage up and we get an opportunity to do that tomorrow.”
Prior to the varsity taking the field, Ruston’s freshmen squad was also able to showcase some sets on both offense and defense in two rounds of controlled sets. Freshmen Ahmad Hudson, and Jayden Anding were among a strong group that made a great showing for the future of the program.
“I thought the freshmen did well,” Baugh said. “You know, we started out the fall camp and they are a big group for us, especially trying to practice with the older guys. So we’ve had them split into two different groups and kind of play offense/defense stuff with those and hadn’t really practiced them all together.
“I thought they came out and worked together as one group. And so that was, that was good to see. I was kind of concerned with what that was going to look like, being that we’ve spent most of the time with them separated. But I thought they did, did really well and got out and competed really well so far.”