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Championship Bound

Bearcats roll Zachary, headed to Superdome for title
Matt Belinson
Friday, December 2, 2022
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Photo by Bret McCormick Ruston junior defensive end Geordan Guidry chases down Zachary's Eli Holstein for a sack in the second half of the Bearcats' 37-22 semifinal victory Friday. Guidry registered two sacks on the night.

Pack your bags, Bearcat fans, Ruston is headed back to the Dome.

In front of a packed house at L.J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium, the No. 1 Ruston Bearcats defeated No. 5 Zachary 37-22 to advance to the Division I Non-select State Championship on Friday, where they’ll play familiar foe Destrehan in the finals.

The win put Ruston back in the state championship for the first time since 1998 – before any of the current Bearcats were even alive.

But so what if they weren’t around the last time Ruston made the trip to New Orleans?

You ask Geordan Guidry, and he believes Friday night was the start of a new chapter in the Ruston history books – one these Bearcats get to write themselves.

“I feel like this is the start of a new legacy right here,” Guidry said postgame. “We were gone for a little while, but we came back, and we came back way stronger than we did before.”

Guidry, who finished with two sacks, was part of a tenacious defensive line that got after Zachary quarterback Eli Holstein all evening.

Holstein, committed to the University of Alabama, finished with just 115 yards passing – the fewest he’s had in a full game this season. He left the game early in the fourth quarter with an injury after Guidry pounced on him for a sack.

The Broncos worked to move him away from the pressure and gave him opportunities for quarterback draws, but the Bearcats stuffed Zachary’s drives in a hurry.

Ruston head coach Jerrod Baugh typically steers clear of making a moment bigger than it is, but even he recognized Friday’s result meant much more to his team and the community.

The Bearcats’ last state championship came in 1990, and Baugh said the win over Zachary to get back to the Caesars Superdome is right where the program belongs from here on out.

The sleeping giant was going to come back eventually, and Baugh said it’s only happened through the hard work of his team during a rigorous season.

“Ruston deserves to be in the conversation every year about who’s going to win the state championship,” Baugh said. “I think now these kids have earned that. It’s very good for our football program.”

And while Friday’s win marked a potential dawn of a new era, Baugh wasn’t exactly surprised his team got to this point.

He wouldn't have drawn up a schedule like the Bearcats had this year if he didn’t want to prepare the Bearcats for nights like Friday. Warren Easton. Jesuit. Cabot, Arkansas. Neville. Lafayette Christian.

Pressure forms diamonds – and the Bearcats had their moment to shine over Zachary.

“Lot of pressure on these guys and they have responded from week to week with some big, big ballgames,” Baugh said postgame. “Really proud of these guys.”

The Ruston ground game kept Zachary off balance, leading to easy third-down conversions and explosive plays that gave the Bearcats the edge.

Dyson Fields continued to find his way into the endzone like he has all playoffs, rushing for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns in the win.

Quarterback Jaden Osborne took a 64-yard keeper to the house for his second rushing touchdown of the season to give Ruston a commanding 30-7 lead.

But Zachary gave one last push after Holstein connected with Tylon Williams for an 8-yard touchdown to make it 30-14 with less than two minutes left in the third quarter.

The hope would quickly fade for Zachary on Ruston’s ensuing drive as running back Jordan Hayes scurried down the sideline for a 66-yard score. Hayes led the Cats in rushing with 115 yards on 13 carries.

Zachary scored with under a minute left, but by then the game was out of reach, and Bearcat nation stormed the field in quick order.

Ahmad Breaux also finished with two sacks, and defensive back Jacroyian Crowe came away with an interception in the win.

But the focus will quickly shift to the state title game against an old obstacle: Destrehan.

Destrehan knocked Ruston out of the playoffs in 2020 and 2021 in the quarterfinal round.

The Bearcats improve to 12-1 on the season and extended their winning streak to 12 games. Ruston will take on Destrehan in the Division I Non-select State Championship game Friday at 7 p.m. in New Orleans. Ruston is seeking its ninth state championship in school history.