Editor’s Note: As we wait for sports to resume locally, we’ll take a look back at the Top 10 high school football games since 2015. Every week will feature a look back at the top games played amongst our parish teams.
No. 10 Ouachita vs. Ruston (2018)
When many sit around and talk about the best games of all time, there is typically an element of surprise involved. That might involve a sudden change in momentum, a dramatic call that swings the game in the opposite direction or typically an unexpected game-defining play. The key word there is unexpected, but that’s not an appropriate adjective to describe the events surrounding Ouachita’s clash with Ruston in 2018.
Nothing mentioned above describes that 2018 clash. Well, the latter happened, but… You know what, let’s just start from the beginning.
Ouachita entered this district showdown with a 5-1 record, while Ruston entered with a 3-3 campaign after suffering losses to Acadiana, Longview and West Monroe.
Were the New Orleans Saints too busy to fill an open date, Bearcats? Talk about elite competition, which isn’t anything new for Ruston.
You know what else wasn’t new? Dramatic finishes involving the Bearcats’ district foe, Ouachita.
The previous season featured a back-and-forth battle that ended in a 31-28 Ruston victory after Bearcat defenders jumped on a Ouachita fumble with 43 seconds remaining. And in 2016, Ruston defeated Ouachita, 34-28, so without belaboring the point: we all knew where Ouachita and Ruston were headed in 2018. I’m happy to say it was better than we ever could’ve hoped.
I say that as an unbiased observer. I’m sure Ouachita fans could have gone without another last-minute Ruston victory, this one marking the third year in a row.
Let’s paint the picture properly, shall we?
After three lead changes in the final six minutes, Ouachita led 20-16 with 2:41 remaining in the contest. Two juggernauts in district were exchanging blows back and forth until Ruston’s senior quarterback Eric Outley, who couldn’t have weighed more than 160 pounds, took the field with the poise of a true veteran.
“That’s the key to having an experienced quarterback,” Ruston head coach Jerrod Baugh told me after the game. “We had the ball with three timeouts, and he was really comfortable. (The two-minute drill) is something we work every Thursday with our kids, and that’s what our kids were saying when we got the ball. We actually had more time than what I give them on Thursdays.”
Fate set us up for a thrilling finish. Outley was facing a third-and-medium around Ouachita’s 27-yard line with less than 30 seconds to play. His Bearcats were down, and he had to make a play. He climbed the pocket and accelerated up the middle before hitting the left sideline before breaking a couple of Ouachita tackles along the sideline en route to crossing the goal line. Ouachita fans sighed, while the Ruston faithful who traveled to Ouachita Parish High School erupted in jubilation.
“We missed a bunch of tackles on that last play,” Ouachita head coach Jeff Fitzgerald said after the game. “Those are plays we have to make. You want to win a game like this; you need to make those plays. They made the plays and we didn’t. That’s what it boils down to.”
That score capped a 23-20 Ruston comeback. Ruston marched 79 yards on seven plays in just under three minutes. It was the ultimate backbreaker after an emotional three-play scoring drive from the Lions.
Trailing Ruston late in the fourth quarter, quarterback Zach Shaw hit receiver C.J. Brown on a 40-yard pass before stud running back Chaunzavia Lewis scored from 10 yards out to put the Lions on top, 20-16, with less than three minutes to play. I can remember the eruption in the student section in the end zone like it was yesterday. The Lions celebrated in unison on the sideline.
Even though we could have predicted the finish like Miss Cleo on the Psychic Readers Network, it didn’t make the fourth quarter any less exciting. I can recall being on the sideline and thinking, “This is really about to happen again, isn’t it?”
I would like to point out that while we certainly remember Outley’s play and the huge reception from Brown that lead to Ouachita’s go-ahead score, there were several standout Lions on defense. Carl Glass and Brendan Hardy totaled five sacks on the night, and Terrence Logwood made the play of the game defensively with an interception in the end zone in the third quarter, which preserved Ouachita’s lead.
Like I mentioned last week in the honorable mentions list, though, the Lions needed to make just one more defensive stop to pull off a thrilling victory. And unfortunately for Ouachita, that play never came in the fourth quarter.
Next week involves more heartache for one of our local teams, and a finish you’d have to see in person to believe…