by Hunter Bower // GeauxPreps.com Owner

NEW ORLEANS – For the first time in 33 years, the Ruston is at the top of the high school football mountain in Louisiana.

The Bearcats (14-0) used a second-half surge powered by quarterback Joshua Brantley to overtake a strong Zachary squad, 31-17, and claim its ninth state championship in school history. The title win was Ruston’s first since 1990 and first under head coach Jerrod Baugh.

Brantley, who took charge late in the game, was awarded Most Outstanding Player after wrangling three scores on 134 yards rushing along with 194 yards through the air.

The Broncos, in their first title game since 2021, finished the year with a 12-2 record and its second runner-up effort in program history.

Ruston put the game away after going up by a score on a fourth-down trick play that saw Brantley skip into the endzone from 24 yards out to go up by two scores that eventually held for win.

It was a virtual stalemate between the two squads as the first half unfolded as each defense eliminated the ground game of its opposition. A total of 24 combined rushing yards was recorded.

The squads traded a pair of field goals in the first 16 minutes of play until Zachary’s Kameron Thomas took advantage of a Ruston turnover and punched in the game’s first touchdown from three-yards out.

Ruston responded just before the half with a special teams play from Aiden Anding who returned a punt 54-yards to knot the ballgame again at 10-10.

The second half was taken over by Brantley who scored twice to extended drives to help Ruston retain possession while sustaining production offensively.

Brantley scored on rushes of three and nine yards with the latter touchdown run giving the Bearcats a one-score lead heading into the final period.

Zachary receiver and LSU commit Trey’Dez Green pulled down a beautiful pass in double coverage for the only Zachary score of the second half. Green finished the game with

Green’s eight receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown earned him Most Outstanding Player honors for Zachary.

Ruston totaled 306 yards in the game while Zachary led with 317 yards, including 235 through the air.

HOW IT HAPPENED

FIRST QUARTER

• 3:22 – RUSTON | Ruston lit up the scoreboard on their first drive of the game using up almost seven minutes of clock following with a 27-yard field goal from Jack Elliott to go up 3-0.

SECOND QUARTER

• 8:59 – ZACHARY | Rafeal Filogonio Costa hit a 27-yard field goal to knot the score up at 3-3 to cap a 7-play, 48 yard drive.

• 6:12 – ZACHARY | Kameron Thomas led Zachary to its first. laad of the game as he punched the ball in from 3 yards out after recovering a key Ruston fumble at the 4-yard line.

• 1:49 – RUSTON | Aiden Anding upped the ante with a 54-yard punt return that knotted the game up for a second time at 10 all.

THIRD QUARTER

• 8:22 – RUSTON | Joshua Brantley aided in Ruston regaining the lead on a 3-yard rush for a 17-10 score.

• 7:09 – ZACHARY | Trey’Dez Green brought down a beautiful 6-yard touchdown reception for the Broncos as the game saw its third tie with the score knotted at 17-17.

• 2:29 – RUSTON | Brantley found pay dirt once again from nine yards out to cap an 84-yard drive and gain up the Bearcat lead to a 24-17 score.

FOURTH QUARTER

• 1:05 – RUSTON | The Bearcats reached into their bag of tricks on a fourth down play with the risk of turnover to Zachary with a minute remaining but it was Brantley who struck again with an end-around keeper from 24-yards out to seal the game and the title victory.