TEXARKANA (KSLA) — Texarkana's 102-year-old high school football rivalry will not be played this year.
“It’s been a lot of good memories for a lot of people on that ballgame that week,” said Arkansas High coach Barry Norton, who has been on both sides of the field coaching for more than 20 years. He’s been with the Razorbacks the past two years.
Players have been taking to the gridiron for the bi-state matchup since 1918. But adjustments being made due to the COVID-19 pandemic mean it will not go as planned.
“I know it’s a big game for the community; and it’s a lot of fun,” Norton said. “But we have a lot bigger issue to deal with right now than a football game.”
The two states’ athletic associations differ on when to kick off football season.
Football players at Arkansas high schools can begin practicing next week. And teams at the larger 5A and 6A schools in Texas are unable to start until Sept. 7.
“It just don’t give us a date to allow us to play,” said Jerry Stanford, the Texas High Tigers’ head football coach.
“And you know that’s frustrating as a coach. You see seniors who want to play Arkansas High their senior year. That’s the biggest disappointment, the kids.”
Arkansas High and Texas High both can boast about winning state championships. But the coaches at the two Texarkana schools say the Arkansas-Texas game means just as much.
“I think for a lot of kids, it’s their second state championship every year,” Stanford said. “It’s something they are going to talk about for the rest of their lives.”
The school districts’ leaders agree that the game is important but say the safety of students and the rest of the community outweighs a Friday night football game.
“... Wins and losses in football are big,” Arkansas High’s Norton noted.
“But the thing we need to do is we need to beat this virus. That’s the win we need to get right now in our community and our country.”