On Thanksgiving 1969 (November 27), four Little Rock high schools AND the University of Arkansas all played football games in Central Arkansas. It was a day for football in the Rock!
It appears this was the only time this feat has happened.
It was a cool and misty day which seems to have made balls slippery and grass fields sloppy. But the precipitation seemed to be more an annoyance than a barrier for the players and fans.
The Arkansas Razorbacks, ranked Number 2 in the nation, played host to the Texas Tech Red Raiders at War Memorial Stadium. The two teams played before a crowd of 35,287. This was the smallest crowd in LR that season, likely due to it being Thanksgiving and the presence of the Central/Hall football game the same day. It would have been hard to fit in two football games, Thanksgiving meals, and a possible church service all within one day.
The Hogs were 16 point favorites for the game with a 1:50 kickoff. It was broadcast on ABC, and fans were encouraged to wear red to show up well on the color telecast.
The Hogs beat the Red Raiders by a score of 33 to 0 in their penultimate regular season game. Turnovers were the key with the Hogs recovering a fumble and intercepting five passes.
This game set the stage for the final Hogs regular season game, which was the December 6, 1969, shootout against the Number 1 Texas Longhorns in Fayetteville.
Earlier in the day, Little Rock Catholic took on NLRHS north of the river with a 10am kick off. The Rockets, under head coach George Loss, were 9-2 heading into the game. The Wildcats (coached by Ken Stephens) were 5-4 and had won four in a row. At the end of the game, NLR was triumphant by a score of 21 to 12.
Later that day, Jones High hosted Horace Mann at the same stadium. This game, with a 2pm kickoff, would be the final game between Jones and Mann. Jones was being closed at the end of the year.
The teams had met earlier in the season with Mann triumphing 13 to 8. Mann had a record of 2-8, playing in the larger AAAA classification. Jones, with a record of 4-6, played in the AA classification. For years these all African American schools were not allowed to play in the Arkansas Activities Association. But by the late 1960s, they were now playing in AAA conferences.
Jones scored an upset victory over the Bearcats by a score of 19-8.
Quigley Stadium was less than three miles from War Memorial Stadium. With a 10am kickoff before a sold out crowd, people who had wanted to go to both the Hogs game and Hall/Central game also had the option of listening to the high school gridiron competition on KARK radio (now KARN).
Prior to the game, Hall had captured the AAAA State Championship by virtue of its record. (The top classification did not participate in playoffs until 1983.) C. W. Keopple was the Warriors’ coach, while Gene Hall was the Tigers’ mentor. The damp field and high stakes of the game turned it into a defensive slugfest. Hall had 2 fumbles while Central fumbled four times.
At the end of the fourth quarter the scoreboard showed a 0 to 0 tie. And that one went into the record books. Hall’s season record was 9-0-1, while Central’s was 6-2-2. It was the best season record Hall had amassed in its 13 years of football.
Four football games within a few miles of each other were a peek into Little Rock life:
- The Hogs were riding the crest of their 1960s football superiority in the Southwest Conference.
- The final Thanksgiving football game in Arkansas between two segregated public schools.
- Continued alternating dominance by Hall and Central in the state’s largest school sports classification. Soon, Parkview would be added to the mix. Throughout the 1970s, all three Little Rock public high schools would rotate winning state championships.