Ruston High School football coach Jerrod Baugh opened his speech during Monday’s Bayou Jamb 2023 press conference at West Monroe High School’s Don Shows Field House by thanking event founder Patti Thurmon for the work she’s done over the years turning the event into one of the top high school football jamborees in the state.
Ruston will take on West Monroe in game four of the Bayou Jamb at 8 p.m. Friday at Rebel Stadium.
“Patti, I know you’ve heard this a lot but I do want to thank you once again for putting all of this together,” Baugh said. “When you’re dealing with 12 or 14 coaches at a time trying to get them to all agree on some things — that’s a feat in itself.”
Baugh also thanked new West Monroe coach Todd Garvin, who replaced Jerry Arledge as Rebels head coach during the offseason after serving as Ouachita Parish High School’s head coach last season, for his role as host coach It was a role Baugh expected to have as the 2023 Bayou Jamb was originally set to be played at Louisiana Tech’s Joe Aillet Stadium until the Bulldogs agreed to a “Week 0” game on their schedule that will be held on Saturday, forcing an audible for Thurmon and Bayou Jamb officials.
“I appreciate all the sponsors, all the volunteers and everybody that it takes to put this on. I appreciate Coach Garvin for all he has to do,” Baugh said. “When you host an event as big as something like this, there’s a lot of things that get pushed to the side with your program in order to accommodate everybody, so I appreciate Coach Garvin for letting us hold this here.”
Baugh also expressed his admiration for Arledge, who will be presented with a Bayou Jamb Lifetime Achievement Award during Friday’s jamboree between the Bearcats and Rebels.
“Coach Arledge, we’ve had quite a few battles since I’ve been at Ruston,” Baugh said. “That goes back to when I was at Longview (Texas High School) and when I was at Ouachita before that. You definitely deserve being in the Hall of Fame.
“What you’ve done for north Louisiana football and Louisiana football in general is something that many of us can only hope to give as much to the game as what you’ve done”
Baugh spoke of the significance of the Bayou Jamb and what it has come to mean for north Louisiana as a whole.
“We just appreciate being part of this event,” Baugh said. “It’s growing and something that I think you can see moving from ULM to LA Tech to West Monroe — it’s not a ‘place event,’ it’s an entire living, breathing thing I guess you can say, and that’s due to what Patti and what all the sponsors that continue to support this and support kids, really.
“At the end of the day that’s what we really want to do and hopefully we can continue to do that.”
Baugh had RHS seniors Nate Johnson and Ahmad Breaux on hand with him at the press conference.
“Nate plays safety for us and Ahmad Breaux plays defensive end, defensive tackle and some tight end for us,” Baugh said. “Nate actually played some quarterback in the spring when we needed him to. You won’t find any two finer guys that represent our football program and are what we want our football program to represent.
“If you want to know what’s made Ruston successful —- Nate’s made a 34 on the ACT and Ahmad’s made a 28, and they’re both above a 4.0 grade point average. So what makes us successful is that they can overcome a bunch of us idiot football coaches, and with good test scores they’ve overcome that.”
Baugh also talked of the perseverance his senior Bearcats have shown over their high school football careers.
“These players have a chance to do something really special,” Baugh said. “It started last year and we’ve got these guys and 20 other seniors — 22 total — that have overcome a lot.
“If you really think about it, this group of seniors are really the COVID kids. The season was abbreviated when they were freshmen, and to go through that and continue participating, they really had to love the game, stick with it, and go through a lot of different things.”
Baugh said looking at the big picture, having to move the Bayou Jamb schedule around due to the blistering heat wave blanketing north Louisiana is something that pales in comparison to the high school football careers his seniors have had.
“Shuffling some games because of heat to me isn’t a very big deal when you consider all the hoops we had to jump through just to have a season when these guys were freshmen. So I think if you look at all of these guys who are seniors, it’s a very special group in the fact they were able to overcome all of those things and have continued to play the game that they love.”
“Hopefully we can go out and compete against West Monroe,” Baugh said. “We overcame some things last year and did some things that hadn’t been done in a long period of time – beating those guys. Coach Arledge was a part of that for so many years.
Baugh also talked of the competitiveness between the Rebels and Bearcats, who won the game between the schools last November 35-17 to break a 33-yard losing streak to West Monroe.
“Everybody wanted to call that ballgame a rivalry and I always said it ain’t a rivalry when somebody’s kicking somebody’s butt all the time, and that’s the way it had been for a long time,” Baugh said. “That (33-year West Monroe win streak until last season) was a butt kicking. I use that word here, and the kids don’t even know that I use that word because I usually use another one talking about it. But Ruston-West Monroe has always been a very special game and hopefully we can get out there (Friday) and get our season kicked off to a good start.”