Traditions Unite for 'Battle'

November 7, 2011

Two of the region’s most long-standing traditions will come together on Saturday, November 12 as St. Joseph’s Mercy presents the 85th Battle of the Ravine.

St. Joseph’s Mercy was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in Hot Springs in 1888. Just seven years later, in 1895, Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist played football for the first time in Arkadelphia.

They’ll meet for the 85th time at 1 p.m. Saturday at A.U. Williams Field on the Ouachita Baptist campus in Arkadelphia. Each team has 39 victories in the series with six games finishing tied.

The Mercy Battle of the Ravine is one of the most unique rivalries in all of sports with the Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist campuses separated by only U.S. Highway 67 in Arkadelphia. It’s the only college football game in America in which the visiting team walks to a road game.

The announcement was made on Nov. 7 at St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center in Hot Springs. With representatives from the Ouachita Baptist Tigers and Henderson State Reddies present, St. Joseph’s Mercy President Tim Johnsen performed the game’s coin toss.

“The Sisters of Mercy established a great tradition of health care in the southwest region of Arkansas. And we’re excited to join forces with another of southwest Arkansas’ great traditions, the Battle of the Ravine,” Johnsen said.

Ouachita Baptist clinched the inaugural Great American Conference championship last Saturday with a 21-18 victory over Southeastern Oklahoma State. The Tigers enter the game with a 7-2 record overall, 6-0 in the GAC. OBU ranked eighth in last week’s NCAA Division II Super Region Four rankings. The top six teams in each Super Region qualify for the Division II playoffs.

Henderson State is also coming in off a victory after beating McKendree 16-10 on Saturday. The Reddies are 5-4 on the season and 3-1 in the GAC.

The 2011 Mercy Battle of the Ravine will be more than just a football game. Festivities will start at 9 a.m. on Saturday when the tailgate area opens on the Henderson State side of the road. St. Joseph’s Mercy will have Reddie Dogs, Tiger Burgers and Ravine Chicken Sandwiches.  Fans from both schools can also compete in a Baggo tournament. Baggo is a bean bag game played similar to washers or horseshoes. The cost to enter the Mercy tailgate area is $5.

St. Joseph’s Mercy physicians and staff will also be on hand to talk about the services offered in the region. St. Joseph’s Mercy is a not-for-profit, faith-based health facility with 27 medical clinics serving the healthcare needs of Hot Springs and its surrounding communities since 1888. It is the region’s most preferred provider of health care services including cardiac, cancer and women’s.

The fun won’t stop once the game kicks off at 1 p.m. St. Joseph’s Mercy will have Battle of the Ravine t-shirts and Mercy mini football’s to shoot into the crowds on both sides of the stadium. And at halftime, there will be a special relay race featuring selected students from Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist competing against each other.

The Mercy Battle of the Ravine is the oldest college football rivalry in NCAA Division II. Many of the games have been extremely close with seven points or fewer deciding the game 37 times. Last year’s game was played at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium on the Henderson State campus. Henderson state evened the all-time series with a 35-26 victory before a crowd of nearly 10,000.

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