Battle of the Ravine
The Battle of the Ravine is the name most frequently used for the annual football game at Arkadelphia (Clark County) between Henderson State University (HSU) and Ouachita Baptist University (OBU). The cross-town rivalry has received widespread national media coverage through the years due to the fact that the football stadiums of the two schools are just across U.S. Highway 67 from each other. The game is promoted as the only college football rivalry in the country for which the visiting team walks rather than flies or buses to a road contest.
The first game in the series was played in 1895, with Ouachita winning by a score of 8–0 on Thanksgiving Day. (At the time, Henderson was known as Arkadelphia Methodist College.) Henderson controlled the series in the early years, winning six consecutive games from 1907 to 1912. A 1914 Ouachita team—which, earlier in the season, had defeated the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and the University of Mississippi—could manage only a tie against the Reddies. Henderson’s longest run was a seven-game stretch of victories from 1989 to 1998, a span that included three seasons when the teams did not play because they were in separate conferences. Ouachita won five consecutive games from 1980 to 1984.
Henderson recorded its largest margin of victory in 1932 when the Reddies won 62–0. Ouachita recorded its largest margin of victory with a 66–0 win in 1919.
The series was interrupted by World War II and was suspended from 1951 to 1963 because of excessive vandalism by students at the neighboring schools. School officials began leaving the lights on at both stadiums the week of the game to discourage pranks. Signs on both campuses are covered in plastic. Ouachita students guard the Tiger statue in the middle of the campus to keep it from being painted red. Henderson students guard the fountain at the entrance to the school to keep it from being filled with purple suds.
The most famous prank in the history of the rivalry occurred in 1950 when Ouachita’s homecoming queen, Arkadelphia native Ann Strickland, was taken by Henderson cheerleaders to a house on Lake Hamilton at Hot Springs (Garland County) the week before the game. Though the cheerleaders were friends of Strickland, they would not allow her to make a phone call to Arkadelphia. Her boyfriend Bill Vining, a Ouachita student, led search parties looking for his girlfriend. Strickland was brought back to Arkadelphia after two days when it was learned that Ouachita officials had reported the incident to the police as a kidnapping.
Years later, male Henderson students who were dressed as women convinced a Ouachita librarian that they were there to take a Tiger statue in the library away for cleaning. In the 1970s, the Henderson bonfire was ignited a night earlier than scheduled by Ouachita students. One of the Ouachita students involved in the prank was a religion major from Hope (Hempstead County) named Mike Huckabee, who went on to become governor of Arkansas. In 1975, an airplane from Henderson’s aviation program flew low over the Ouachita campus and dropped thousands of marshmallows on the school.
In 1999, an incident known in Battle of the Ravine lore as “Trashcam” took place. A Henderson graduate assistant coach took a video camera into Arkadelphia’s Central Park, which overlooks the Ouachita practice field. As he was taping the Tiger practice, the graduate assistant was spotted by a Ouachita player. The graduate assistant sped away in his car, leaving the camera in a nearby trash can. When the camera was found with a Henderson identification tag on it, Ouachita athletic director David Sharp removed the video and returned the camera to Henderson.
Some of the more famous games in the rivalry are as follows:
· 1949: Ouachita trailed with seven minutes left by a score of 14–0. Ike Sharp executed three successful onside kicks for Ouachita in the final seven minutes of play. Otis Turner, who was known as the Magic Toe and later would be appointed as a judge on the Arkansas Supreme Court, kicked the field goal that gave Ouachita a 17–14 victory.
· 1950: more than 8,000 people turned out to watch Henderson avenge the previous season’s loss with a 7–0 victory over Ouachita. It would be thirteen years before the two schools would play again.
· 1963: the series resumed and Henderson won by a score of 28–13, allowing the Reddies to claim a share of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference (AIC) championship.
· 1969: Henderson quarterback Tommy Hart led the Reddies back from a ten-point halftime deficit to win, 23–17, and capture the AIC title.
· 1972: Ouachita went for two after scoring a touchdown with 2:23 left to play and converted, winning 15–14.
· 1975: Ouachita converted a fourth-and-twenty-five play by inches on its final drive and then scored a touchdown two plays later to upset a previously undefeated Henderson team, 21–20.
· 1978: Ouachita went for two at the end of the game just as it had done six years earlier. A pass was deflected, and Henderson held on to win by one point, 7–6.
· 1982: Ouachita drove the length of the field for a late touchdown to win 19–18 at Henderson’s stadium and capture the AIC championship.
· 2008: Ouachita scored twenty-seven fourth-quarter points to rally from a 29–16 deficit and win, 43–36, in a Thursday night game that was televised regionally.
· 2011: Ouachita came back from a 41–17 deficit in the third quarter and had a chance to win on the final play. Ouachita tailback Chris Rycraw was stopped inches short of the end zone, and Henderson held on, 41–36, against a Ouachita team that had already wrapped up the first Great American Conference football championship.
· 2013: Ouachita kicked a field goal on the final play of regulation to send the game into overtime. Henderson held on to win, 60–52, in the first three-overtime game in the history of the series. The victory allowed the Reddies to complete a second consecutive undefeated regular season.
· 2014, 2018, and 2019: Ouachita won the Battle of the Ravine each time to wrap up undefeated regular seasons.
In the late 1940s, the game was played on Thanksgiving and promoted by the Arkadelphia Jaycees as “The Biggest Little Football Game in America.” The festivities included an elaborate downtown parade on Thanksgiving morning. In more recent years, the game—played on a Saturday in the fall—has been sponsored by Southern Bancorp, an Arkadelphia-based bank holding company, and has featured a large joint tailgate party on the Henderson side of U.S. Highway 67.
For additional information:
Nelson, Rex. “The Battle of the Ravine: Family Ties Run Deep in Rivalry.” SportingLifeArkansas.com, November 14, 2013. http://www.sportinglifearkansas.com/rex-nelson-the-battle-of-the-ravine-family-ties-run-deep-in-rivalry/ (accessed October 6, 2021).
Prewitt, Alex. “Won’t You Beat My Neighbor?” Sports Illustrated, December 2, 2019, pp. 62–69. Online at https://www.si.com/college/2019/11/29/ouachita-baptist-henderson-state-rivalry (accessed October 6, 2021).
Arkansas’ Independent Colleges & Universities
Last Updated: 10/06/2021