Rex Nelson: Tears as Ouachita Baptist Goes Perfect


Editor’s Note: Below is an excerpt from a personal essay written by Rex Nelson. A link to the complete essay is at the bottom of this post.

Rex Nelson Archive PageAs the clock ticked down to 0:00 on a cold, gray Saturday afternoon, I tried to describe the scene at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia to those who were listening to the broadcast of the 88th Battle of the Ravine.

For the previous 30 minutes — since it had become likely that Ouachita Baptist University would beat Henderson State University to go to 10-0 for the first time in school history — the messages had been flooding my phone. They came from Ouachita graduates across the country who were listening online.

I attempted to paint a verbal picture as the packed Ouachita stands emptied, students and even some adults storming the field in the wake of one of the most historic victories in the rich annals of a football program that dates back to 1895. Henderson had become the giant among NCAA Division II football programs in the state, going undefeated during the regular season in 2012 and 2013 and winning the four previous Battles of the Ravine. The Reddies were 30-1 in regular-season games since the start of the 2012 season, having only lost to a talented Harding squad in the final minute earlier this season.

Ouachita was ranked No. 9, and Henderson was ranked No. 14 in Division II coming into Saturday’s game.  Despite Ouachita’s higher ranking, 100 percent of those who picked the game on the Great American Conference message board had gone with Henderson.

No doubt, the Reddies were Goliath.

As I drove from my home in Little Rock to Arkadelphia on Saturday morning, the clouds thickened. The day reminded me of the Saturday before Thanksgiving in 1975 when Ouachita and Henderson met in another classic at the same stadium. The two schools held a joint homecoming for a few years in the 1970s with the game played each season at Henderson’s newer and larger stadium. Even though the 1975 contest was at Henderson, it was technically Ouachita’s home game and Ouachita sports information director Mac Sisson was on the public address system that day.

Mac would always give the weather before the game, and I can still remember his words in that distinctive baritone: “Winds out of the north at 10 to 15 miles per hour with a temperature of 29 degrees.”

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Additionally Ouachita Baptist earned several conference awards this week.

ARKADELPHIA, Ark. – After completing the first 10-0 season in program history, a conference-best 18 members of the 2014 Ouachita Tigers football team received All-GAC honors. Six Tigers were named to the All-GAC First Team, including unanimous running back selection, Steven Kehner. Head Coach Todd Knight was the unanimous choice for GAC Coach of the Year.

Senior Steven Kehner ran for 1,080 yards this season and set a Great American Conference single-season record with 16 rushing touchdowns. Kehner averaged just over five yards per carry and 108 yards per game. The three-time GAC Player of the Week led the conference in rushing yards and rushing yards per game.

Joining Kehner on the First Team offense are a trio of offensive lineman, seniors Aaron Sprinkle and Brent Calhoun and junior Michael Russell. These three anchored a line that enabled the Tiger offense to average 232.6 rushing yards per game, second best in the conference and 19th in Division II. The line also finished third in the GAC, allowing only 1.2 sacks per game. This was Sprinkle’s third All-GAC selection and second consecutive First Team selection.

Senior safety Zack Mitchell was selected to the First Team defense after finishing the season with a career-high six interceptions. Mitchell led the conference in interceptions and finished 11th in the nation in that category. Zack also had two fumble recoveries and 45 tackles.

Senior return specialist Etauj Allen led the nation with three returns for touchdowns and finished second in the nation in averaging 18.7 yards per return. Allen set the Ouachita single-season record in punt return yardage this season with 392 yards.

Senior quarterback Kiehl Frazier was selected to the All-GAC Second Team after finishing with 2,357 yards of total offense and 21 touchdowns. Frazier threw only four interceptions this season, the fourth-lowest total in Division II.

Senior wideout Drew White earned second team honors after averaging a team-best 58.43 receiving yards per game. He caught 26 balls in 2014, three going for touchdowns. Junior receiver Ke’Vontae Pope was named the second team utility player after turning in a career-high,527 receiving yards and averaging 99.8 all-purpose yards per game.

Senior defensive end Kyle Lamothe was named to the second team after a career-year that saw him earn two GAC Player of the Week honors. Kyle set career highs in sacks with seven, tackles for loss with 9 and defensive touchdowns with two on fumble recoveries.

Joining Lamothe on the second team defense is senior tackle, Dion Young. Young finished 2014 with 27 tackles, including three tackles for loss and two sacks.

Senior cornerback Jeremy Small earned All-GAC Second Team honors. Small finished the regular season with three interceptions and seven pass break-ups.Small had 22 tackles and one tackle for loss.

Senior kicker Matt Ehasz went 10-13 on field goal attempts and 34-34 on extra point attempts, earning him a second team roster spot. Ehasz hit the game-winning field goal in overtime to defeat Harding at Searcy.

Freshman punter Shelton Wooley also earned All-GAC Second Team honors. Wooley averaged 37.2 yards per punt, dropping 21 inside the opponents 20 yard line.

Senior fullback Spencer Knight, junior tight end Jonathan Powell, junior linebacker Mike Williamson and senior long snapper Eric Ashburn all earned honorable mentions for their efforts in 2014.

For the complete list of all-conference teams, click here.

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