Ruston

If you believe the best things in life are worth waiting for, add Ruston’s 56-55 double overtime victory against Ouachita to your list of reasons why.

In a series between district schools that’s been increasingly unpredictable through the years, the latest chapter of this rivalry might have been its best. How else can you describe a chaotic game that featured two lightning delays, a game-tying pass with seven seconds remaining in regulation, two overtimes and an unsuccessful fake extra point that ended the game?

As Ruston celebrated the narrow win in double overtime, Ouachita hung their heads in defeat. But Ouachita head coach Todd Garvin quickly rallied his bunch and had one simple message for them. "It’s a shame a game like that came down to one play."

“It’s unfortunate,” Garvin said following the loss. “I’m really proud of their effort. They believe in one another. We had opportunities to give in and we didn’t at the end of the ballgame. We made a decision to go for two and win the game. (Ruston) made the play and we didn’t.”

After Ouachita quarterback Zach Jackson scored his sixth touchdown of the night, Garvin called timeout before the ensuing PAT.

“Before we started that series, we knew were going to go for two and try to win the ballgame,” Garvin said.

The Lions lined up for a two-point conversion when Baugh called timeout. Following the timeout, the Lions ran onto the field and got into field goal formation. Jackson took the snap, rolled out and lofted a pass into the end zone, which fell incomplete.

“I had a feeling Todd was going to try to pull something out, but there’s not really any way you can mitigate that with one timeout. You need about five timeouts to try and get something like that done,” Baugh said.

On a night where tailback Dyson Fields and fullback Devian Wilson combined for 359 rushing yards for the Bearcats, (6-1) Ruston needed every inch of those yards to overcome a home underdog in (4-3) Ouachita. The Lions led 21-14 at halftime, but Ruston relied heavily on its rushing attack in the second half and benefitted from some quick scores with gaping holes created up front.

“(Ouachita) did a great job,” Baugh said. “I don’t think we were particularly ready to play in that first half. You saw a whole different team in the second half. But I tell you what, Ouachita came to play and obviously gave us all we wanted. They’re a really good football team. Coach Garvin and his staff have done a wonderful job. They’re headed in the right direction.”

Ruston was on the verge of defeat with the clock winding down in the final quarter. Trailing 42-35, a false start from the two-yard line pushed the Bearcats back to the Ouachita seven-yard line with 12 seconds remaining in the game. That's when Jaden Osborne took the snap, rolled to his right and found Dawson Willis for the seven-yard strike before Brady Beason tied the game with the point after.

“That’s one of our goal line plays that we work on weekly,” Baugh said. “They went out there and executed it.”

The Bearcats entered Friday night’s matchup outscoring opponents by an average of 22.5 points per contest. Ruston’s defense was allowing less than 17 points per game before Ouachita rolled up 55 points on the Bearcats.

And who could have seen that coming after Ouachita's offensive struggles against West Ouachita one week prior? One week after being criticized for his performance, Jackson turned in the best of his young career. Ouachita’s sophomore quarterback rushed for 121 yards and threw for 38 with six total touchdowns in the loss. Meanwhile, tailback Marcell Henderson rushed for 186 yards and two scores on 29 carries.  

First Quarter

Following a 45-minute delay, Ouachita received the opening kickoff in hopes of a fast start. The Lions certainly didn't get one on their first offensive possession, as a quick three-and-out gave the ball to Ruston at its own 39-yard line. Fields, who entered the contest as the leading rusher in the state with 1,272 yards, polished off a nine-play opening drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Ruston’s 6’0”, 236-pound fullback, Wilson, broke loose on a 31-yard gain to put the Bearcats inside the red zone on the drive.

Ouachita seized momentum quickly after the score. Chaunkiveon Lewis ripped off a long return for the Lions that put Ouachita at Ruston's 35. Facing a third-and-eight, Jackson carried out the play fake on an option run before keeping it and rumbling for 17 yards for the first down. Immediately after Ouachita reached the red zone, the referees signaled for both teams to leave the field with yet another lightning delay.

Once the game resumed, the Lions fumbled on the first play but avoided disaster by falling on their own fumble. That put the Lions behind the sticks and forced a third-and-12 two plays later. No bother, sophomore quarterback Zach Jackson rolled to his right before finding Jaeden Ledent at the pylon for the 18-yard score.

Second Quarter

A holding call on a play where Dyson Fields was injured had Ruston going in reverse. Ruston quarterback Jaden Osborne heaved up a prayer on what felt like third-and-forever when Ouachita senior defensive back Jaylen Kincaid recorded the interception. That was Kincaid’s second interception of the season, according to the school’s season totals.

The Lions made good on the turnover with a six-play drive that culminated in a nine-yard touchdown run from Jackson that put Ouachita in front, 14-7, in the second quarter.

Ruston tied it up on the ensuing possession with its smash-mouth style. After Fields was tackled by his shoestring at the 20-yard line to set up a second-and-short, the Bearcats smartly quick snapped Ouachita before the defense was set, resulting in a 20-yard score by Fields.

Jackson and the Lions didn’t blink, though. The sophomore scored his third touchdown by splitting two Ruston defenders with a great cut back inside on a stretch run that went 14 yards.

The Lions forced their first punt of the first half on the ensuing possession with two minutes to go in the half. Mondrai Hogg recorded a pivotal tackle for loss on that defensive series for the Lions before the half.

Third Quarter

Ruston opened the second half with the absolute worst-case scenario unfolding. The Lions fumbled the opening kickoff and the Lions jumped on it at Ruston's 33. The Lions cashed in on the turnover with a 14-yard Marcell Henderson touchdown run.

Back-and-forth the clubs went. Ruston cut it to a one-score deficit on the first play of the next drive. Fields had nothing but green turf in front of him on a 58-yard run. The entire Lion defense bit on that fullback dive and Fields housed the pitch.

After a quick three-and-out by the Lions, the Bearcats tied the game with a consecutive one-play drive. This one ended with Wilson taking a fullback dive untouched for a 48-yard score.

Tied at 28-28, Ruston’s offensive line continued to open huge running lanes for the Bearcat backs, which culminated in an 18-yard touchdown run by Fields.

Down 35-28, Ouachita had another play bounce its way when a bobbled snap wound up in the hands of Henderson, who took it 70 yards for the game-tying score at the end of the third quarter.

Fourth Quarter

After the defense forced another Ruston punt, the Lions faced a third-and-long when the coaching staff dialed up a reverse to Lewis that put the Lions inside Ruston territory. Jackson polished off the drive with a 32-yard touchdown to put the Lions on top 42-35 midway through the fourth.

Ruston's Geordan Guidry made a crucial sack for the Bearcats, and Ouachita's Dontae Dunbar fell on a fumble in the final quarter with momentum shifting back and forth. 

Wilson and Osborne scored touchdowns in the overtime period for the Bearcats.

Ruston has now won six straight against the Lions in a series the Bearcats lead, 23-14.

The Bearcats have also won six straight contests and are knocking on the door of a Top 5 ranking in Class 5A.

Ruston will challenge Alexandria Senior High next week, while Ouachita hosts West Monroe for two premier district matchups.

“We have to rebound and keep our heads up,” Garvin said. “I thought the kids played their hearts out. That was good to see. It’s back to the drawing board.”

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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