Destrehan welcomes Ruston for quarterfinal rematch of 2020 slugfest

Destrehan's Leslie Jefferson

Fans of tough, defensive-minded football games fortunate enough to witness Destrehan and Ruston’s quarterfinal battle a year ago no doubt remember it fondly – and are no doubt eagerly awaiting a second-serving of that, fittingly, on Thanksgiving week.

Both teams have become known over the years for ball-control, powerful offense and rugged, stingy defense and last year’s contest was a truly intense battle, with just one score in the game: Tyler Morton was the hero, his scoop and score of a fumble with less than eight minutes left supplied the winning points and propelled Destrehan into the state semifinals.

That one was at Ruston. This one will be at Destrehan, as on Friday night the No. 4 seeded Wildcats (8-0) host the No. 5 Bearcats.

Ruston enters with a record of 10-2, with its losses coming in its regular season opener (at Neville, 27-24) and finale (at home to West Monroe, 42-14). An eight-game winning streak came in the interim, with wins over teams like Carencro, St. Thomas More, Alexandria and Ouachita Parish.

This is a team that has been tested – sternly. Neville, Ouachita Parish, West Monroe and St. Thomas More are quarterfinalists in their respective divisions, while Carencro fell by four in round two of the 4A playoffs to Neville.

“They’re very sound defensively,” Scott said. “They run to the ball very well and they’re physical. Very physical, a typical Ruston team in that way.”

Destrehan had not faced a full four quarters test until last week’s 29-20 win over visiting Woodlawn, which was well in doubt before Shane Lee’s late breakaway touchdown run put things away. That kind of test perhaps came in the nick of time as a Ruston team that’s played in several heated games down the stretch heads to town.

“We needed to get a close one in, to see how we’d react in that kind of situation,” Scott said.

Despite the steady competition level, one thing seems clear when it comes to the Bearcats: this is a team that can pile up yards and points in a hurry. Their loss to West Monroe was the only game in which it scored less than 24 points all season long. Ruston averages 39.8 points per game and has topped the 50-point mark three times – including a 56-55 win over Ouachita Parish in its seventh game.

That ability to post big numbers comes via a run-heavy offensive attack, which can make for an especially dangerous matchup this time of year given the weather conditions and the relative lack of opportunities to intercept the ball for the defense. Another wrinkle is the team’s style of offense – Ruston brings the triple-option, which Is less common in prep football these days, and that relative lack of experience by a defense in facing it can be an advantage.

“It’ll be our first time facing it (this season),” said Scott. “We actually practice without a ball (for it) so everyone takes care of their responsibilities without looking for the ball.”

In last week’s win, Ruston quickly pulled away from Benton, which had no answer for running back Dyson Fields. Fields – one of the state’s leading rushers – rolled for 234 yards and three touchdowns in the win and has amassed over 200 yards on the ground in both of his team’s playoff wins. Ruston rushed for over 450 yards as a team last week, and had full control by halftime with a 28-9 lead at the break.

“The yards after contact is what you worry about with him,” Scott said. “He runs through arm tackles and things like that, and it’s what makes him effective. He’s a powerful guy, but he can certainly outrun you. He can score from anywhere on the field.”

This is a matchup of schools that each have strong tradition. Destrehan’s run of six trips to at least the semifinal round in the past eight years is one of the more impressive marks in the state. Ruston boasts one of the most consistent programs in the state as well, with 17 straight seasons qualifying for the playoffs.

Quarterback Jaden Osborne triggers the team’s option attack – this is his second season as the team’s starter. Devian Wilson also punishes teams up the middle at fullback.

“(Osborne) is a returning starter … their backs both have experience and they have three guys up front who are returning starters. They’re very well-coached and they run that system very well. With Osborne having the experience he does, it helps with how they want to play. They want to play defense and run the ball, and then hit you with play-action when you’re not expecting it.”

With this being Thanksgiving week, St. Charles Parish schools are off this week, which has prompted Destrehan to move back to “our Ida schedule,” as Scott called it, the team meeting in the mornings to get their work in. With that comes the traditional Thanksgiving morning practice, where the team enjoys donuts together as an early treat.

Of course, that’s become quite the stable tradition in recent years at DHS, as several deep runs into the playoffs mean Thanksgiving week practice has become the norm.

“That’s always good,” Scott said. “That’s the tradition, and it’s one we’d like to keep going.”


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