RUSTON — It was clear from the start of Friday’s games at James Field that Class 5A Ruston and Class 2A Jonesboro-Hodge didn’t belong on the same field.
Between big run after big run and various mixups from the opposition, Ruston ran away with a 46-0 victory over Jonesboro-Hodge in the Bearcats’ second-to-last tune-up before the start of district play Oct. 9 against West Monroe.
Running backs Qay’shon Thurman and Sontus Mitchell ran for two touchdowns each, and Seth White returned a fumble for another score as Ruston (2-2) wrapped up its three-game home homestand with the easy win.
“Most importunately, we did what we were supposed to do,” Ruston coach Brad Laird said. “I was proud of the way we executed, I was proud of the way we started. That was one thing we talked about all week and before the game was starting fast. It’s something this football has not done going back the past couple weeks.”
A pair of bad snaps on punts led to two safeties and White’s fumble return helped finish off J-Hodge before halftime. Malik Wright added a third-quarter interception to secure the shutout.
The Bearcats cruised from there, holding J-Hodge to just three first downs in the first half with two coming via penalty.
J-Hodge managed 21 total yards in the first half — 92 total yards for the game — and didn’t cross midfield until 6:04 left in the third quarter.
“Getting a shutout against any team is good,” White said. “The defense coming together like that after a rough week last week. It makes you feel better and gives you a lot of confidence.”
Ruston piled up 367 yards of offense, including 303 rushing yards. Backup quarterback Jacob Phillips had three carries for 103 yards. Mitchell added seven carries for 65 yards and Thurman had nine carries for 59 yards.
Even when Ruston put its reserves in with a minute left in the first half, J-Hodge still couldn’t stop Ruston. Phillips ripped off a 48-yard run before the Bearcats ran out the clock to take a 39-0 halftime lead.
Ruston’s starters played the opening possession of the second half before giving way to its reserves.
The final outcome left Laird and his players upbeat following a 42-27 loss to Airline last week.
“I wanted to make sure our guys understood you gotta be able to prepare to be successful,” Laird said. “That’s going to be Sunday through Thursday. This group did this.”
About the only miscues on Ruston’s side were two touchdowns that got called back — a 67-yard punt return by White and a 52-yard touchdown run by backup running back Dtallion Dade — and a missed 30-yard field goal.
Dade scored from 10 yards out two plays later to redeem himself and put Ruston up 45-0 in the third quarter.
The game got out of hand when White recovered a fumble and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown to put Ruston up 30-0. White’s score capped a flurry of 16 points in just four minutes of game action.
“Our d-end missed the play and he knocked me down. I was trying to get back up and the ball just happened to be there and run it in,” White said. “That was probably one of the easiest returns.”
Thurman set up Ruston’s first score with runs of 36 and 13 yards. He capped off the drive with a 1-yard plunge to put Ruston up 7-0 with 8:51 to play.
Mitchell scored Ruston’s second touchdown on a 4-yard run. The drive started with a 22-yard catch and run from Thurman out of the slot.
The senior had to work a bit harder for his second touchdown run from 26 yards, which put Ruston up 39-0 in the second quarter. Mitchell took a carry up the middle, bounced off several J-Hodge defenders and cut up field near the 15-yard line to cruise in for the score.
J-Hodge gave Ruston four free points with the first-half safeties. The first one came on a wild snap on a punt from the 14-yard line that scurried out of the end zone to make 16-0.
Midway through the second quarter, J-Hodge mishandled another punt for a safety to put Ruston up 32-0. The punt skipped and trickled near the goal line and was later booted out of the back of the end zone.
“Any time you can gain an advantage in special teams … you gotta take advantage of it and I thought we did,” Laird said.
Ruston didn’t throw much since the game got out of hand but Cade Gipson finished 5-of-6 for 64 yards. His 16-yard pass Michael Courtney helped set up Thurman’s 3-yard run early in the second quarter. The six-play drive came after a penalty wiped out White’s kickoff return.