2021 - Ouachita at Neville football

Played 2021Sept10 at Bill Ruple Stadium, Monroe, La. Photo by TOM MORRIS/The Ouachita Citizen. c.tommorrisphotos.com All Rights Reserved

Hosting (5-1) Ruston with a 4-2 regular season record might mean a lot to Ouachita football fans.

But rest assured, welcoming in a Top 10 ranked Bearcat squad means even more to Ouachita head coach Todd Garvin. That much is guaranteed.

After Garvin’s decade-long tenure at West Monroe as an assistant ended in 2018, Ruston head coach Jerrod Baugh gave Garvin an opportunity to join in on the efforts of rebuilding Ruston’s football program into a respected entity again.

And that task has been accomplished under Baugh’s watch.

“They’re one of the top teams in the state in Class 5A,” Garvin said.

Now in the midst of rebuilding a Ouachita program that went 1-5 the year prior, Garvin welcomes in a talented Ruston team that he helped build over the last few seasons. And though Garvin knows he’ll have his hands full trying to slow down Ruston’s rush attack while matching the Bearcats’ physicality up front, Ouachita’s head coach can’t help but be grateful for the opportunity bestowed upon his club.

“I respect that staff a lot,” Garvin said. “Coach Baugh gave me an opportunity at Ruston, and I will forever be thankful for that opportunity and what all he shared with me to help me be successful in my position here. But it’ll be a tough challenge for us even though it’s a home ballgame.”

Hiring Garvin was a no-brainer for Baugh back in 2018.

“Whenever Todd called me and told me he was looking for a job, I told him to give me five minutes. I called our principal and superintendent and told them we needed to make this happen,” Baugh said. “I think they trusted my intuition and my knowledge on that. Todd’s reputation speaks for itself too.”

Baugh and Garvin go back even further than their recent coaching stint together. Believe it or not, Baugh actually coached Garvin in the early 2000s. As a member of Pat Collins staff fresh out of Northeast at the time, Baugh coached Ouachita's wide receivers when Garvin served as the team’s starting quarterback. Alongside big-name coaches in Northeast Louisiana like John King, who now serves as the head coach of Longview in Texas, Baugh cut his teeth in the coaching ranks, while Garvin tried to retain as much information as possible before making that leap from player to coach. 

“I’m not surprised at all at how he’s moving things along at Ouachita,” Baugh said. “He’s been around a lot of good people and he’s soaked all that in. The things we do here in Ruston, a lot of that actually comes from (former West Monroe head coach) Don Shows, who coached John King back at Northwestern. It’s all connected. Yeah, us coaches add a few wrinkles here and there, but (Garvin) has taken a lot of those things and added it to his program.”

Ruston’s brand of dominance rolled up a 41-0 victory against Pineville last week. Bearcat tailback Dyson Fields rushed for 171 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. Fields enters this matchup as the leading rusher in the state, according to GeauxPreps.com.

If the Lions are going to end Ruston’s five-game win streak this season, Ouachita is going to have to play much better than it did in a 20-7 victory against another District 2-5A opponent. Over the course of that West Ouachita victory, Ouachita struggled to get its defense off of the field in the first half and suffered from several quarterback/center exchanges over the course of the game. And that just won’t be tolerated under Garvin’s watch.

“I’m happy with the win, but I’m not happy with how the game went,” Garvin said. “We only gave up seven points, and that’s not terrible. You should win every time you only give up seven points. But I thought our quarterback just didn’t play very well at all. We couldn’t connect with any receivers really. We couldn’t get the run game going. The fumbles on the quarterback/center exchanges… It was just very sloppy on that side.”

Marcell Henderson rushed for 185 yards and two scores on 25 carries in the win. Zach Jackson was 3-of-11 for just four yards for the Lions. Jackson had a much more productive night on the ground, averaging eight yards per carry on nine rushes. 

Jackson is two games removed from playing his best game of the season in an upset win against Union, and Garvin is pushing to see a similar performance from his sophomore quarterback this week.

Defensively, Carmycah Glass led the team with 10 tackles, while Omari Randel accounted for two tackles for loss. 

West Ouachita, which experienced numerous injuries against Loyola two weeks ago and entered the Ouachita tilt a bit hobbled, will travel to take on West Monroe Friday night. The (2-4) Chiefs are No. 30 in the GeauxPreps.com’s power ratings, while the Rebels climbed to No. 10 after the win against Alexandria Senior High next week.

The matchup in the Lion’s Den will feature two Top 15 teams when No. 15 Ouachita welcomes No. 7 Ruston.

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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