After two weeks of prep gridiron (that is high school football to those who don’t write like a 1950s inky wretch), Little Rock Central and Little Rock Hall are both posting records of 2 wins and 0 losses. This feat has not been achieved in quite a while.
How long? 37 seasons! It was 1979, the last time that the Tigers and Warriors were both out of the gate at 2-0.
Jimmy Carter was in the White House. Bill Clinton was in his first term as Governor. First Lady Hillary Rodham was several months pregnant with Chelsea. Hall High and Razorback standout Webb Hubbell was Mayor of Little Rock. The City’s population was in the 150,000s (it would be 159,151 after the 1980 census). Little Rock had an area of approximately 80 square miles. (Today it is approximately 200,000 citizens over 122 square miles.)
Lou Holtz was coaching the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Southwest Conference. Harry Hall was in his first season as Commissioner of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference. Rex Nelson was a student at Ouachita. Paul Eells was in his second year with KATV, while Dave Woodman was finishing his first decade at KARK. Gary Hogan was anchoring sports for KTHV. Hogs football games were broadcast on KAAY radio. While Bob Buice and Jim Elder were ruling the airwaves at KARN, Craig O’Neill was dominating mornings at KLAZ.
Orville Henry, Jim Bailey, and Wadie Moore covered college and high school sports for the Arkansas Gazette. The Arkansas Democrat had switched to morning delivery and hired John Robert Starr as editor. Both papers carried ads for Kempners, Golds, M.M. Cohn, Skaggs Albertsons, Minute Man, Union National Bank, Commercial National Bank, Worthen National Bank, and First National Bank.
Metrocentre Mall existed with bricked over streets on Main and Capitol. The Grady Manning Hotel and Hotel Marion still stood (though in their twilight days before their February 1980 date with demolition.)
So a lot has changed since Central and Hall previously achieved this. In the interval, Central has been 2-0 a dozen times and Hall has achieved that a brace. But the schools never managed it during the same season. Three times the schools both managed 1-1 seasons and seven times they each started at 0-2.
The 1979 Warriors were helmed by C. W. Keopple, who would lead the team from the 1960s into the 1980s winning four conference/state titles. (When your conference is statewide, winning one got you the other.) Bernie Cox was in his fifth season as the Tigers’ mentor, with two state championships already under his belt, five more would be in his future.
The teams stayed tied through the fourth week. But in the fifth week, while Central won, Hall lost to Parkview by a score of 7-0. The following week, the Warriors rebounded, while the Tigers settled for a 0 to 0 tie with Ole Main. Weeks seven through ten saw both teams notching another win each week. This set up a Thanksgiving Day classic with the state’s top two teams facing off. Central was slightly favored, but season records seldom carried any weight when the two cross-town rivals played on Thanksgiving afternoon. In an upset, Hall bested Central by a score of 17 to 0.
From 1987 to 1990, the second game of the season was the Hall-Central matchup, which meant that it would have been impossible to both start with a 2-0 record. This second week matchup was made necessary by the fact that not only could the two teams no longer face off on Thanksgiving after 1982, but the two schools were not in the same conference from 1983 through 2000. So the faceoff was early in the season, during the non-conference portion.
Due to subsequent restructurings by the Arkansas Activities Association, the two schools have not played a football game since 2005. The bell from the “Battle of the Bell” which was supposed to replace the pageantry and intense rivalry of the Thanksgiving Day matchups, sat forlornly and largely forgotten in the trophy case at Central following the 2005 edition which Central won by a score of 24 to 7. (That season Central started at 0-2 on the way to a 5-5 record and Hall started at 1-1 on the way to a 3-7 record.) UPDATE: As noted in a comment on this piece, the Bell has now been refurbished and sits proudly at Quigley Stadium. Thank you Belinda Stilwell for the information!
Who knows how the 2016 season will turn out for these two teams? In the past 2-0 has led both to State Championships and to a 6-4 record. But for two schools that have struggled in the past few seasons, to start with a 2-0 record is quite an accomplishment. For both to start with that record is remarkable.
While the blog hiatus and a restructuring continue, this was a bit of history that needed mentioning.