Ruston’s defense, Hayes shine over Rebels at Jamboree

(Junior RB Jordan Hayes rushes for two touchdowns in Jamboree win. Photo credit: Reggie McLeroy)

By Kyle Roberts

A healthy combination of a rushing attack combined with a stingy defense gave Ruston a 14-0 shutout win over West Monroe in the 2023 Bayou Jamb at Rebel Stadium for the Friday night cap game in front of a crowd that would rival the regular season.

And it was junior Jordan Hayes who wowed the spectators to the tune of two touchdowns with 74 yards.

“He’s a special runner,” Ruston head coach Jerrod Baugh said. “And I think (junior running back) Dylone Brooks is a good runner. Those two guys working in and out and supporting each other; I think that’s a good tandem.

“We’ve been watching Jordan do it for a long time since he’s been in the sixth grade. He’s steady gotten better. He’s a really tough runner inside and keeps his legs moving. And then he pops out of there. I’m proud for him and all of our running backs.”

After both defenses held the offenses stagnant for the first seven minutes of the initial half, the Bearcat offense strung together a nice drive that started on their own 15-yard line. Hayes scampered into the end zone for his first of two touchdowns on the night with a 39-yard run at the 4:30 mark.

Junior Jack Elliot added the point-after to give Ruston a 7-0 lead. Elliot was perfect on the night as Ruston also has replaced longtime deep snapper in Dylar Richmond and holder Matt Garrett with senior Joe Morrow and junior Peyton Martin, respectively.

Later in the half, senior Semaj Jones appeared to intercept a Rebel pass after timing a route perfectly. A pass interference call, unfortunately, negated the excellent return.

Ruston would hold West Monroe again without being able to score, and took over in the final seconds of the first half. Sophomore fullback Lander Smith showed his ability to be a threat in the receiving game with a powerful run after the catch for over 40 yards near halftime. Junior Josh Brantley sold a play fake and dumped the pass to Smith in the flat.

The Bearcats started the second half with the ball before going three-and-out. Again, West Monroe struggled to move the ball with any type of rhythm, and the Bearcats took back over.

Brooks was the focus of this particular drive for the Bearcats, and multiple runs by the tailback put Ruston at first-and-goal from the two yard line. The Bearcats would turn the ball over near the goal line and gave West Monroe the ball on their own 20 after the touch back.

Ruston’s last touchdown drive of the night was set up by an 18-yard quarterback keeper by Brantley to set up Hayes for his final score of the night from 12 yards out to go up 14-0.

The Bearcats would hold the lead for the remainder of the night en route to a shut out. Ruston out-rushed West Monroe 183 yards to 23.

“Our defense gave us a lot of opportunities to handle the ball, and that’s a big thing,” Baugh added. “I thought our they did a really good job digging in under the adversity (of being on the road at Rebel Stadium).”

Ruston returns to action Friday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m. against Warren Easton.