Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

Turkey Day Football in LR – Beating a Variety of Opponents from 1914 to 1933

Turkey Day 1921From the first Thanksgiving football game for Little Rock High School in 1914 until 1933, the Tigers played a variety of opponents.  They faced off against other Arkansas high schools, out of state high schools, a college and a team of soldiers.  Their record in these twenty games was 18 wins and 2 losses.  While the opponent may have varied, each year the Tiger eleven lined up against their foes at home in Little Rock. The team had enough of a reputation that they could invite opponents and never had to travel.

Playing games on Thanksgiving had become a tradition by the time Little Rock joined in the fray in 1914. Their first Thanksgiving Day opponent was Texarkana High School.  The Tigers won by a score of 20 to 0. The crowd of 1,500 at West End Park (now the site of Quigley Stadium) not only witnessed the high school game, but also saw Arkansas College (now Lyon College) defeat Little Rock College (no association with UALR) by a score of 40 to 0.  With their win, Little Rock captured the state championship – their fourth since 1907.

By the next Thanksgiving Day, the field at West End Park was known as Kavanaugh Field. It would have that name until it was replaced by Quigley Stadium in 1936.  From 1915 until 1933, Little Rock would defeat three Arkansas high schools Van Buren, Benton and Hot Springs as well as high schools from Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Kansas, Illinois and Missouri.  Three of their out of state opponents returned for a second time, so even though these schools were generally overwhelmed by Little Rock High, it was obviously viewed as a positive experience.  Playing out of state teams garnered other benefits. In 1920, they played Tupelo Military Institute, which held the Mississippi-Alabama championship. By defeating them, Little Rock High School claimed the state championship of four states: Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi.

In 1917, they beat the college team of Arkansas State Normal School (now UCA) by a score of 45 to 0. (The Tigers so overpowered State Normal that the Gazette mused that the extremely muddy field was all that kept LR from scoring more than 45 points.)

The Tigers’ only two defeats came in 1918 and 1924.  The first Thanksgiving Day defeat came in 1918 when Little Rock played a team of soldiers from Camp Pike. The soldiers were an average of 20 pounds heavier than the Tigers. They used that weight to their advantage to defeat the high schoolers by a score of 42 to 0.  This was at the height of the US involvement in The Great War. So this game was certainly part of Little Rock’s war effort as the City worked to extend hospitality to soldiers. The Tigers’ 1924 defeat was at the hands of Atlanta Tech High School by a score of 35 to 7.

While the Thanksgiving games were serious business for the Tigers and their fans, they also provided for moments of entertainment.  In 1923, the Gazette reported that the Tigers had hosted a dance at the Capital Hotel for the visiting Ensley High football team from Birmingham, Alabama.  One wonders if there were a motive to their hospitality considering that the next day the Tigers won by a score of 20-7. Perhaps distracting the opposing players the night before the game was all part of Coach Earl Quigley’s strategy.  On Thanksgiving 1929, Little Rock hosted previously undefeated Soldan High from Saint Louis. At halftime of the game (which would end with LR scoring 26 to their opponent’s 6), there was a performance by the Little Rock High School band as well as a group of girls called Quigley’s Quackers.

Based on their reputation as a powerhouse, Little Rock would continue to play teams from other states. But after 1933, Little Rock would play a close rival: first North Little Rock (1934-1957) and then Hall High (1958-1982).  During the two decades of playing various teams, the Little Rock Tigers achieved ten shutouts and suffered one shut out.  The Tigers scored 492 points and gave up 133 points.

1914 Little Rock 20 Texarkana 12
1915 Little Rock 40 Muskogee Central High 0
1916 Little Rock 46 Van Buren 0
1917 Little Rock 45 Arkansas State Normal 0
1918 Little Rock 0 Camp Pike 42
1919 Little Rock 52 Benton 0
1920 Little Rock 6 Tupelo Military Institute 3
1921 Little Rock 21 New Orleans Warren Easton High 3
1922 Little Rock 7 Bryan (TX) High 0
1923 Little Rock 20 Birmingham Ensley High 7
1924 Little Rock 7 Atlanta Technical High 35
1925 Little Rock 6 New Orleans Warren Easton High 0
1926 Little Rock 18 Birmingham Ensley High 6
1927 Little Rock 37 Wichita Central High 0
1928 Little Rock 18 Chicago Lindblom High 0
1929 Little Rock 26 Saint Louis Soldan High 6
1930 Little Rock 33 Chicago Lindblom High 13
1931 Little Rock 31 Dallas Woodrow Wilson High 0
1932 Little Rock 6 Saint Louis Cleveland High 0
1933 Little Rock 13 Hot Springs 6
  • Muskogee Central High has been known as Muskogee High since the 1970 integration of the formerly all-white school with an African American high school.
  • Tupelo Military Institute existed from 1913 to 1937.
  • Warren Easton High is Louisiana’s oldest high school. After Hurricane Katrina it is now a charter high school.
  • Bryan High School was replaced by Stephen F. Austin High School, which was replaced by a new Bryan High School.
  • Ensley High in Birmingham closed in 2006.
  • Atlanta Technical High closed in 1947. A charter school with the same name operated from 2004 to 2012.
  • Wichita Central High has been known as Wichita East High since 1929. It is the largest high school in Kansas.
  • Chicago Lindblom High now educates under the name Lindblom Math and Science Academy.
  • Saint Louis Soldan High now educates as Soldan International Studies High School
  • Woodrow Wilson High School continues to operate in the Lakewood neighborhood of East Dallas.
  • Saint Louis Cleveland High now educates as Cleveland Junior Naval Academy and is no longer in the longtime Grover Cleveland High School building.
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Author: Scott

A cultural thinker with a life long interest in the arts and humanities: theatre, music, architecture, photography, history, urban planning, etc.

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