By Kyle Roberts
Newsflash, Lincoln Parish: it’s obscenely hot outside.
And no group is more acutely aware of this fact than the Ruston High football program, from coaches to players to support staff, as the temperatures on the turf at The Hoss have caused a little chaos in practice scheduling this week.
The bright side? The Bearcats have been given an opportunity to lean into the mental aspects of the game and stay focused in the midst of all the changes, which is not only the intense heat outside but the start of school and the excitement of the upcoming schedule.
“Wednesday, the plan was to have the kids come in and have meetings and lift weights, but then it was too hot and we had to send them home,” Ruston head coach Jerrod Baugh said on Thursday. “Keeping a high school kid in limbo on “are we going to practice” or “are we not going to practice;” that’s something they are going to have to overcome.”
“I think the physical part has been erratic, but it’s absolutely been a learning tool for us later down the road. It’s a conscious thing to be mentally prepared and make yourself ready regardless of the situation. I know a lot of people see football as a physical thing, but there’s a lot of mental things that go with that.”
After a successful scrimmage last Thursday at home against Byrd, Ruston now has the opportunity to have another scrimmage-style matchup with this one on the road at a location that the Bearcats have not graced in quite some time: Rebel Stadium in West Monroe. In fact, Ruston last played at West Monroe in 2019, and due to a combination of a COVID cancellation on West Monroe’s part in 2020 and then district scheduling.
“Some of these guys have played at Rebel stadium as freshmen, but have not seen West Monroe on a Friday night,” Baugh said. “It’s different over there. And we’ve gone over there before and struggled near their student section, which gets loud. It leads to false starts from all the crowd noise. And there’s kids on our team who have not had to deal with that.
“I wasn’t originally pumped by the idea of having to play West Monroe twice in the same year, but after I thought about it, I thought it would be good for us to get in their stadium and kind of get what it feels like. I think it will be a good atmosphere.”
Last season, Ruston ended a three-decade-long losing streak to the Rebels with a 35-18 win at home to secure the District 2-5A crown outright in front of an electric home crowd. The Bearcats would go on to make their first state championship appearance since 1998.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. tonight and can be heard on 97.7 FM.