The Party is Underway: Ruston wins first state title in 33 years in 31-17 victory over Zachary

For the first time since 1990, Ruston High School can claim they are state champions after the Bearcats defeated Zachary 31-17 in Division I (Non-Select) State Championship played at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.

“Really happy for these kids and this community and all the kids and coaches that have been a part of this, whether they’re a part of this football team this year, I appreciate all the work that all of the kids and coaches have done for me since I’ve been the head coach at Ruston. It’s been a long process, and a tough one, and it all pays off tonight and I can’t be happier for these kids.”

Ruston head coach Jerrod Baugh

Quarterback Joshua Brantley was the Most Outstanding Player from Ruston (14-0). The Zachary (12-2) defense had no answer for Brantley as he completed 11 of his 19 passes for 194 yards and led his team in rushing with 134 yards and three touchdowns.

“It really hasn’t sunk in yet, but I can feel it around me and being to celebrate with my teammates I know it really meant a lot to them,” Brantley said. “We’re going down in history.”

Ruston quarterback Josh Brantley

Senior wide receiver Logan Malone was responsible for most of Brantley’s passing yardage as he hauled in five passes for 112 yards and was a huge part of Ruston’s success in the second half. Another senior, wide receiver Jamar Woods, hauled in four catches for 51 yards.

Defensively, Ruston senior linebacker Jadon Mayfield had 12 tackles for 2.5 sacks and two tackles for loss.

Ruston scored the first points of the game when kicker Jake Elliot managed to get the ball through the uprights as hid bounced off the crossbar and over, giving the Bearcats an early 3-0 lead with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter. Elliot’s field goal completed a 16-play, 83-yard scoring drive that lasted for almost seven minutes.

However, Zachary would take the lead when it scored 10 points in a little less than three minutes.

After kicker Rafael Costa nailed a 27-yard field goal, Zachary was able to force Ruston to a quick three-and-out. On the next play, a Ruston errant snap on a punt was recovered by the Broncos at the Bearcats’ four-yard line. A few plays later, Thomas was able to power through the trenches for a one-yard touchdown run to give the Broncos a 10-3 lead with 6:12 left in the second quarter.

Despite the circumstances, everyone at the Caesars Superdome knew that Ruston was going to eventually answer. That answer came with 1:49 left in the first half when Ruston defensive back Aidan Anding returned a punt 54 yards to the house to tie the game up at 10-10 going into the half.

On Ruston’s first drive of the second half, Brantley finished a 10-play, 74-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run. On the drive, Brantley connected with Malone five times for 61 yards, including throws of 27 and 20 yards.

However, Zachary came roaring back after Spangler connected with wide receiver Tyson George for two passes of 28 and 32 yards. Those two passes would set up Spangler’s first passing touchdown of the game with a six-yard toss to tight end Trey’Dez Green to tie the game at 17-17 with 7:09 left in the third quarter.

However, Ruston was hot and it was not stopping. After a huge 51-yard catch from Malone on a deep ball, Brantley would keep it himself on a quarterback power for a nine-yard touchdown to give the Bearcats a 24-17 lead with 2:29 left in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Zachary would drive the field and were looking to close the gap when they were able to get inside Ruston’s 10-yard line. However, the Bearcat defense remained poised and stopped the Broncos on a goal-line stand when Anding knocked away the would-be touchdown pass that was headed toward Green.

With just over a minute left in the game, Brantley would place Zachary’s coffin six feet under with a 24-yard play-action bootleg for his fourth and final touchdown of the game to account for the final score.

Ruston now has nine state titles in its program’s history. The last team to win a state title at Ruston was its 1990 squad, which is considered by many to be one of the greatest teams in Louisiana high school football history. It defeated Catholic-Baton Rouge 52-10 in the 1990 4A State Championship game. Ironically, Zachary’s head coach David Brewerton was an offensive lineman on that Catholic team.

Green was rewarded with the Most Outstanding Player for Zachary. He finished with eight receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.

Spangler finished with 235 yards and one touchdown while completing 16 of his 32 pass attempts.

With Ruston’s victory, North Louisiana schools finished with a 4-1 record at the LHSAA Prep Classic. The one loss came from Haynesville who lost to another high school from North Louisana, Oak Grove, in the Division IV (Non-Select) State Championship game on Thursday.

Check out these photos taken by Billy Metcalf!