How Ruston advanced to LHSAA Non-Select Division I title game with modest talent

RUSTON -- Anyone perusing most Louisiana high school football recruiting lists would be hard pressed to find a Ruston Bearcat with scholarship offers from a Power Five school.

That’s because there are none in the senior class, which was still talented enough to have the Bearcats on the verge of the LHSAA Non-Select Division I state championship game entering Friday's bout with talent-rich Zachary at L.J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium.

The Bearcats’ lack of Power Five talent didn’t matter as they ran away from the defending Class 5A state champion 37-22 in a game that was never close. Dyson Fields, Jordan Hayes, Jaden Osborne and Jadon Mayfield operated behind a stunningly efficient offensive line to advance to the state title game for the first time in nearly a quarter century.

“We came out here with the mentality that we were going to win state,” said Fields, who scored twice and is headed to the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans for the first time in his life. “We’ve been talking about it since August. The community needed this and we came through for them.”

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Ruston's Aaron Jackson signals a first down after making a big catch against Zachary Friday in the LHSAA Non-Select Division I semifinal contest in Ruston's LJ "Hoss" Garrett Stadium.
Ruston's Aaron Jackson signals a first down after making a big catch against Zachary Friday in the LHSAA Non-Select Division I semifinal contest in Ruston's LJ "Hoss" Garrett Stadium.

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What Ruston (12-2) brought to the table against Zachary (9-3) was a bunch of solid athletes who were well-versed in a system optimized for their success. There’s 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive tackle Christian Davis with an offer from Northwestern State. There's Fields with an offer from Southern Arkansas. A handful of other seniors have offers from Division III Centenary College.

As far as juniors, defensive end Ahmad Breaux has an offer from Louisiana Tech, wide receiver Aaron Jackson has one from Jackson State and Geordan Guidry has one from Grambling State. Baugh said the recruiting process has changed to the detriment of high school athletes.

“It used to be that coaches would try to get sophomores on campus and get them to commit, but now that’s not the case,” Baugh said.

Meanwhile, Zachary had four players in its lineup with Power Five commitments, to Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Indiana. Three of them, Kylin Jackson, Ashley Williams and AJ Thomas, were on defense. Four-star quarterback Eli Holstein, an Alabama commitment, was stymied by the Bearcat defense.

“We were trying to get a pass rush on him with just the guys up front – as few as you can so we could play coverage behind it,” Baugh said. “They have some skill guys who if you try to single them up, they could be bad matchups for us. Because of the pressure we were able to get, we were able to double cover those guys who can get loose.”

The NCAA transfer portal has at least temporarily altered the need for college coaches to seek high school signatures in the numbers they formerly needed.

“We definitely have some kids who are capable of playing at the next level,” Baugh said. “But in talking with college coaches, they’d rather take a kid from the portal who they’ve seen on film against college competition. With high school players, it’s something of a crapshoot.”

Jimmy Watson covers Shreveport-Bossier area sports. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @JimmyWatson6.

This article originally appeared on Shreveport Times: LHSAA football: Ruston advances to Division I state title game