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Ouachita Baptist looking to spoil HSU’s undefeated seasonOriginally Published November 8, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated November 7, 2012 at 10:49 a.m.
One of the oldest rivalries in football will hold its latest edition in Arkadelphia on Saturday, when the undefeated Henderson State University Reddies will host the 6-3 Ouachita Baptist University Tigers.
The Reddies have already won a share of the Great American Conference Championship and are ranked eighth in the American Football Coaches Association Poll and rated No. 2 on the NCAA Super Region Three Rankings, while the Tigers of Ouachita were ranked as high as 10 on the AFCA Poll on Oct. 15 but have dropped out of the rankings after three straight losses in October.
But that doesn’t matter. This is the Battle of the Ravine.
“The top rivalry in [Football Bowl Subdivision] football is probably Alabama vs. Auburn,” said Troy Mitchell, sports information director for HSU. “There are other in-state rivalries, but few compare to the country’s oldest and most unique rivalry in NCAA Division II.”
On Saturday, the Ouachita players in purple and gold will take the nation’s shortest football road trip and walk across the street to Carpenter-Haygood Stadium on the campus of Henderson State.
On Monday, coaches Scott Maxfield of HSU and Todd Knight of OBU met with reporters after the Little Rock Touchdown Club meeting and talked about the game.
As usual when two coaches talk together, they praised each other and their teams, while saying it would be a tough game.
“Henderson is a phenomenal team at 9-0,” Knight said. “It will be an uphill battle for us, and to win, we will have to play way above our heads.”
Yet the Tigers coach said this game is always special.
“This team is a group of kids I feel strongly about, and we can make it a good football game. This is our bowl game,” Knight said.
Henderson’s Maxfield said OBU had an outstanding football season, as seen by the team’s six straight wins at the beginning of the season.
“They will come ready to play,” he said. “I expect a great game like last year.”
The 2011 Battle of the Ravine went down to the last play, and the game is already being heralded as a classic.
Rex Nelson, an Arkadelphia native who is the radio voice of the Tigers, and has been for 30 years, called it the greatest game he has ever seen.
With less than one second remaining and the ball on the HSU 1-yard line, OBU running back Chris Rycraw was stopped before he could cross the goal, preserving a 41-36 Henderson victory. The final call was disputed by OBU through the entire offseason and beyond.
Maxfield said he thinks Knight and the entire Tiger coaching staff have done a better job coaching this year than him and his staff.
“They were down to a third-string quarterback who used to be a wide receiver,” Maxfield said. “They lost 12 guys this year and have done a great job.”
Meanwhile, the Reddies coach said that while his team is 9-0, the Reddies are still taking the season one game at a time to be prepared for the postseason play and not to let this one important game slip away.
This year’s game is sponsored by Southern Bancorp, which is headquartered in Arkadelphia. Bill Wright, president of the company, said the hometown bank is a national fit with the two schools.
“The bank is 128 years old, OBU is 126 years old, and Henderson is 122 years old,” he said. “That is more fitting than that we are all linked together for this 86th Battle of the Ravine.”
Even though the rivalry began 117 years ago, this is only the 86th meeting. The first game played between the two schools was on Thanksgiving Day 1895, when Ouachita College beat Arkadelphia Methodist College 8-0. The second meeting did not occur until 1907, according to information supplied by the sports information directors of both teams.
The game was discontinued in 1951 after Henderson State won 54-0 and the pranks between the two schools got out of control. Play between the two schools did not resume until 1963, with the Reddies winning again, 28-13.
The annual games were continued until 1993, when Henderson moved to Division II football. Three years later, OBU moved up to Division II.
The two teams did not play in 2004 or 2005 because the matchup rotated off the conference schedule.
Even with 85 games in the books, the record is close. After last year, HSU leads the series 40-39-6.
Nelson said it is a series that has divided the city of Arkadelphia and even families at time.
“When I was growing up, my father’s best buddies were HSU men, and we all hunted together,” he said. “We were close except for one week a year.”
David Sharp, the athletic director at Ouachita, grew up in Arizona, but his father was an OBU player.
“His family used to call the Arkadelphia radio station and ask them to place the phone next to a radio so they could hear the game,” Nelson said of the Sharp family.
Sharp went on to play and coach and be an administrator at OBU.
“He never left once he got here to go to college,” Nelson said.
HSU Athletic Director Kale Gober is also a former Reddies player.
Of the 85 meetings, the games have been decided by a touchdown or less 38 times, with OBU leading in the close games, 19-13-6.
Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or email@example.com.