The 2017 season hasn't been very kind to DII football winning streaks. Earlier this season, Northwest Missouri State saw its 38-game winning streak halted. And now, Henderson State's legendary road streak come to an end.
Saturday marked the 91st edition of the Battle of the Ravine, one of college football's oldest rivalries that pits Henderson State against Ouachita Baptist. The stakes were certainly amongst the highest they'd ever been. Henderson State was looking to extend its record 31-game road winning streak, while Ouachita Baptist had a chance to lock up the Great American Conference.
But Drew Harris made sure the Tigers were on the right side of victory, scoring all seven of Ouachita Baptist's touchdowns en route to a 49-42 win.
The Battle of the Ravine is deifnitely one of the most unique rivalries in the game, across any level. The two teams are right across the street from each other in the small town of Arkadelphia, Arkansas. The opposing team literally walks across the street for "road" games.
“Man, it’s definitely rivalry week," Harris said. "They’re right across the street from us. We know going into that game every year it’s going to be a dogfight, no matter what the records are. We went into it pretty pumped like we always are. I’m glad we came out on top.
“They made the walk this year. We made the walk last year and got them at their house.”
Harris and his Tigers teammates knew the implications of this game. They definitely had the unfathomable road streak on their minds as the Reddies entered Cliff Harris Stadium.
“It was a big motivator for us," Harris said. "We knew coming in that they had played well on the road for the past three or four years. We knew if anyone was going to beat them it would be us. It was really sweet for us not only to snap that streak, but win the conference championship on top.”
That conference championship was no easy task. The GAC turned out to be one of the most competitive conferences by season's end, with five teams ending the season separated by a mere two games.
“We dropped a close one early in the year to Southeastern [Oklahoma State] that we felt we shouldn’t have," Harris said. "After that we responded real well. We played [Arkansas] Tech a few weeks later and beat those guys at their place, that was a really big win for us. Harding got on a roll, and beat us the next week. We dropped to two losses and we knew to have a chance we had to win out. This team has overcome a lot of adversity, we’ve won some pretty close games. It’s just nice to be on top for once.”
Saturday's season finale was all the fans on hand could ask for. Ouachita was able to hold off a thrilling comeback by the Reddies, winning the game 49-42. Harris was responsible for all seven touchdowns. The junior wide receiver ran for 58 yards and four touchdowns on the ground while reeling in three more touchdowns on 153 yards through the air.
“It’s something that you dream about," Harris said. "Seven touchdowns, it’s crazy. I never expected going into the game to do that. My teammates set me up for success. My offensive line gave me creases, I got to give it up to them.”
It shouldn't come as a surprise. That's the player Harris has been all season. He ended the regular season with 20 rushing touchdowns and six receiving touchdowns. The jack of all trades even threw for a touchdown in last weekend's 45-42 victory over Southern Arkansas.
“I’ve always liked to do it all," Harris said. "I just enjoy the game of football. I’m not overly blessed with athleticism, like speed and stuff. I just love to play. No matter how the ball gets in my hand I want to make something happen.”
Tune in to the #D2FB Championship selection show at 5 p.m. ET at https://t.co/LnUHsbapeb or at https://t.co/DM9DEhKsiJ!— NCAA Division II (@NCAADII) November 12, 2017
No. 1 seeds will be announced HERE within an hour of the show starting. pic.twitter.com/sg0r8QIhIb
Harris certainly accomplished that thus far in 2017. Now, he and his Tigers teammates await their postseason fate at Sunday evening's Selection Show. With the Tigers all but sure to move on, the Ouachita faithful await to see what tricks Harris has in store this November.