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Anticipated clash of the titans

Bearcats welcome explosive Knights to Hoss Garrett tonight
Friday, September 22, 2023
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Photo by Josh McDaniel Ruston High standout defenders Ahmad Breaux (24) and Jadon Mayfield (22) chase down Warren Easton quarterback Greg Donaldson during a game earlier this season at Hoss Garrett Stadium. Breaux and Mayfield square off with LSU commit Ju’Juan Johnson tonight.

Jerrod Baugh said tonight’s matchup between Class 5A No. 5 Ruston (3-0) and Class 4A No. 2 Lafayette Christian Academy (3-0) will come down to limiting, not stopping, the Knights’ firepower.

With a four-star recruit and LSU commit at quarterback in Ju’Juan Johnson leading the way, LCA comes in firing on all cylinders averaging 53.7 points per game with Johnson’s ability to carve up defenses on the ground and through the air.

Through three games, Johnson is 41-of-65 passing for 726 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he’s rushed 28 times for 476 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Ruston is familiar with Johnson, having faced the future Tiger and his teammates last season in a 35-20 win in Lafayette. Johnson finished with modest numbers with 197 passing yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception along with 65 rushing yards.

This year’s meeting is set to be another premier prep matchup in the state, but Baugh said the same level of execution will be needed just like any other opponent.

“I think anytime you’re playing a good player on offense, you don’t go into a game with an idea you’re going to shut them down. You try and limit the possibilities of them taking over the game,” Baugh said. “I think our preparation has been to try and force them do some things they’re not as comfortable doing and take away some things you like to do and get him off pace and uncomfortable.

“That’s one thing with him is he really seems really comfortable doing what he’s doing. He’s comfortable with what he’s doing in that offense. I thought our guys last year played really well installing the game plan and getting him off pace,” he continued.

Ruston did recieve some welcomed new on Thursday, with the Louisiana High School Athletic Association forcing Warren Easton to forfeit its two wins - making Ruston 3-0 on the season.

With a dynamic quarterback on the other side, Baugh said the Bearcats’ emphasis on starting faster and taking advantage of early opportunities is crucial to Ruston’s chances of winning.

So far, the Bearcats have scored 24 total points in the first half, compared to 58 in the second half. Even last week at Cabot, Arkansas, Ruston got inside the Panthers’ 28-yard line four times and came away with only one touchdown.

That can’t happen tonight.

“We need to execute better in the first half,” Baugh said. “We struggled to get in the end zone and had it down there a bunch and I think we had five series on the plus side of the field ( against Cabot). If we don’t take advantage of those and if we aren’t stopping them on offense, it could be a scenario where the score gets to be a lot.”

For as much talk is rightfully spent on the LCA offense, Baugh said the defensive unit is not something to sleep on either.

With senior defensive end Melvin Hills, a Texas commit (19 tackles, 2 sacks), and linebacker Sandy Lewis, a McNeese State commit, leading the way, Baugh said Ruston’s offense has to stay balanced and on schedule to keep LCA out of sorts and keep its offense off the field as much as possible.

“What goes unnoticed are those guys on defense,” Baugh said. “ That’s one of those things where their defense is getting so many stops and it’s putting their offense back on the field and getting these big scores.”

Baugh added that additional seating will be available tonight with a capacity crowd expected. The south end zone will have extra general admission available, while standing room on the north end zone will be allowed.

“We’ll have plenty of room to accommodate and we’re expecting a big crowd,” Baugh said.

Both teams are accustomed to big playoff atmospheres. Both played for state championships a year ago in the Caesars Superdome. LCA lost to St. Thomas More 52-48 in the Division II Select title game, while Ruston fell 17-10 to Destrehan in the Division I Non- select championship.

Ruston takes on Lafayette Christian at 7 p. m. at Hoss Garrett Stadium.