Arkansas vs. Texas RIVALRY
Rivals for 110 years, it stands to reason that both sides of Texarkana’s State Line would agree, “Texas/Arkansas Week” is the most highly anticipated and spirit filled week of the whole school year for both Texas High and Arkansas High students and possibly even the entire cities of Texarkana. The traditions of frying bacon on the school lawn, chomping Tiger Tail doughnuts, stealing mascots, and driving down State Line with the Texas and Arkansas state flags unfurled and flying proudly from the beds of pick-up trucks, all add to the flare and festivity of the highly anticipated hometown rivalry showdown.
At the game’s onset in 1910, the tradition was for it to be played on Thanksgiving Day, when Texarkana would rush through turkey dinners and rally as a split community to watch the Texas and Arkansas sides battle it out. From that time until now, this game has been a cornerstone moment in the life of generations of Hogs and Tigers marking the passage of deeply held loyalties and time-honored traditions. A graduate of Texas High in 1996 and a member of the Texas High football team, Roy Vasher remembers, “The Texas and Arkansas game was always what I looked forward to, all of those summer workouts leading to that first game of the year. We had friends from the Arkansas side that we loved to hate that week. It was just all good fun.”
This highly anticipated tradition has tragically been robbed from the students of 2020 by COVID-19. While the loss may be devastating to many, they are not the first nor the second generation to experience this theft. From the rivalry game’s inception, it has been canceled only a handful of times, in 1913, 1914, 1921, and 1954, with causes ranging from the threat of problems due to the intense rivalry between these two hometown teams, to a World War which understandably caused the game to be side-lined until better times. It was also canceled in 1952, but this time not for an unfortunate reason like the War, COVID-19 or intense rivalry threats. This time it was because Texas High was in the state playoffs and was simply unable to make it to the Thanksgiving Day game. Arkansas High had to settle for a faceoff against the Hope Bobcats as the replacement to their traditional “Battle of the Axe.” Dale Works was a senior running back at Arkansas High in 1952 and when recalling the feeling of having to replace the Tigers as opponents he said, “It just wasn’t the same. When we played Texas High the whole town turned out, all the ladies dressed up with big corsages, and both sides had a game queen. Not playing the Texas/Arkansas game was not just a loss to the football team, it affected everyone that had a part in the game. It was a tradition the whole community looked forward to. Everyone always hurried to have Thanksgiving so they could get to the big game.”
In recent years, the game has drawn crowds of up to 10,000 spectators. The school districts bring in large amounts of revenue from ticket sales alone. “The cancellation of the Texas High vs. Arkansas High annual rivalry game affects many different groups for many different reasons,” said Tina Veal-Gooch, Executive Director of Public Relations. “In terms of annual ticket sales, when it is a home (Tiger Stadium) game for Texas High, we generate around $30,000 in revenue.” Add to that booster club donations, concessions, programs, T-shirts and other spirit related items from this matchup and the losses could top $70,000.
“Needless to say, everyone is disappointed,” Veal-Gooch said. “However, it is our senior students that really suffer the loss more than others. In a time where so much seems to be taken away from them, this is just one more thing to add for our senior students. No doubt that AHS is as disappointed at the cancellation of this game as THS is. I know that both teams have looked at ways to consider playing it another time but, unfortunately, it is just not possible for either team this year. We look forward to those sporting events against AHS that remain on our schedule.”
“This football season is unlike any other that we have experienced. There have been so many changes in the way everyone goes about their daily lives and football is no different. The loss of the Arkansas High vs. Texas High game was a part of the crazy 2020 year,” said Arkansas High’s Athletic Director, Barry Norton. Norton has a unique perspective of this game having coached both hometown teams throughout the years. “I have many great memories of the game as do many others. The kids were disappointed in not getting to play that game; however, we are very thankful to be getting to play this fall. In the grand scheme of things, losing that game is pretty small compared to the other challenges that we have faced in this world these past six or seven months.”
Just as it is still such a vivid memory in the mind of Dale Works, when he experienced its absence 68 years ago, the loss of this hometown rivalry tradition will have a ripple effect in the memories of the 2020 students of Texas and Arkansas High. The seniors have looked forward to finally being a part of this spirit filled week and some were ready to experience it for the final time. This crazy year has stolen a multitude of important experiences that we can normally count on. In moments like these we are given the opportunity to recognize the value we place on things like the hometown traditions, loyalty and team-spirit that are all so evident during the activity packed week of this century old game. It’s a loss to say the least, but we can all take comfort in the fact that students have been kept safe from COVID, the football season has been a success, and that next year, and hopefully for many years to come, we will be allowed to celebrate all these festivities once again. Whether you are a proud Hog or a fighting Tiger, we can all agree there’s nothing like participating in this age-old head-to-head battle to bring the whole city together with team spirit and hometown pride.
Dale Works Played As A Senior Running Back For Arkansas High In 1952, When The “Battle Of The Axe” Was Canceled
In 1951, Dale Works was a junior, playing football for Arkansas High, and held the record for being the highest scoring running back in the state of Arkansas. His record caught the attention of University of Arkansas Fayetteville, who had their eyes on this outstanding high school junior. With his senior year bridging the time until his arrival on “The Hill,” Works faced some unexpected difficulties. To a talented young athlete like Works, what he faced might have been more accurately categorized as a tragedy.
The starting senior full back incurred a knee injury that landed him in Little Rock under the care of a surgeon. This complex knee surgery was a transplant of the muscle under Work’s knee. The surgery was successful and allowed this young athlete to head to Fayetteville as a University of Arkansas Razorback.
While at Fayetteville another injury occurred, and Works found himself back in surgery for the second time. The surgeon was optimistic that he could repair the transplant and Works could return to the team, however, Works felt defeated. He was done. His fate seemed sealed to lead him back home to Texarkana.
Near the time of his return, Texarkana College was exploring the formation of a football team when someone told the coach about Dale Work’s talent. He was offered a two-year scholarship to come join the team. Works had a brace that offered support to the transplant and allowed him to once again enjoy being on the field.
After completing his two years at Texarkana College, Works took his bride and high school sweetheart, Arkansas High cheerleader, Sue Secrest, and began a job for General Dynamics in Fort Worth. While in Fort Worth, he enrolled in TCU. After graduation, he earned his masters from North Texas State University.
Dale Works’ journey alone would be considered a success, but when football is in your blood, you can feel its arrival coming as clearly as the change of seasons. There is just something about the fall and the glow of stadium lights on a football field that calls out to those that have experienced being on the field, whether as a football player, a cheerleader, part of the drill team, or the band. Once again, the field summoned Dale Works, but this time, to the other side of the tracks. This Arkansas High Razorback became a Texas Tiger, when he took the job of head football coach for the TISD middle school that was then Westlawn Junior High. Football success was once again a part of Work’s life, and his past football experiences and athletic expertise came together to create an undefeated Texas Middle School for two-and-a-half years.
Football has remained a constant in the life of Works, culminating with the joy of watching his grandson, Corey Long, as the kicker for the Texas High State Championship team of 2004.
Works and his towering stature and quiet, humble nature, along with his petite cheerleader bride are now into their late eighties, but the thrill and remembrances of Texas and Arkansas week are still a part of who they are and those fabulous memories are evident by the twinkle in their eyes as they share the details of those games.