79th Battle of the Ravine will break series tie

Updated: October 30, 2003, 3:30 PM ET

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas 7 in Arkadelphia has been rumbling this week in anticipation of the annual Battle of the Ravine.

The football rivalry between Ouachita Baptist and Henderson State, two schools separated by the scenic highway that cuts through the campuses, will have its 79th meeting at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Neighbors and close friends sit on opposite sides of this close rivalry, which is tied at 36-36-6.

"I don't think there's anything like it in the whole United States or maybe the world," said Henderson State coach Jesse Branch, who played for and coached at Arkansas so he knows a little about big-time rivalries.

"The two football stadiums sit right across the highway from each other and you can actually hear each other's whistles blowing when you're practicing.

"The players all go to the same churches, the same grocery stores and they see each other all the time. A lot of them will wind up marrying girls from across the street and vice versa. It's just unbelievable the uniqueness of this thing," he said.

Branch's counterpart, Ouachita Baptist coach Todd Knight, agrees.

"I've coached in several different places and been through a lot of rivalry games, but there's nothing like this," Knight said.

And like all good rivalries, the teams' records don't mean much when they meet.

Ouachita Baptist (3-4, 2-4 Gulf South Conference) has lost three of four, and every loss was to a league opponent ranked in the NCAA Division II Top 25. Henderson State (4-4, 3-3) is reeling from back-to-back losses.

None of that matters this week. Every player is focused.

"It truly makes no difference who has the best team," Branch said. "That's the reason why the record stands at 36, 36 and 6. This is one of those games that deserves more recognition than it gets."

In other Gulf South action this week:

--The best offensive show in the state should be at Arkansas-Monticello (3-5, 2-4), where the Boll Weevils play host to No. 19 Southern Arkansas (6-2, 4-2).

--Harding (4-3, 3-3) faces the tough task of slowing down Delta State (6-2, 4-2), Division II's second-ranked offense at 517 yards per game.

--Arkansas Tech (4-4, 3-3) seeks its second straight road win at West Alabama (2-6, 1-5).

--Central Arkansas (2-6, 0-6) takes its seventh crack at winning a conference game with West Georgia (3-5, 2-4) in Conway.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-6, 1-4 Southwestern Athletic Conference) returns from its off week for a road game at Jackson State (2-7, 2-2). The Golden Lions have three games left on the schedule, but all are on the road.

UAPB has lost three straight since beating Division II Kentucky State 36-9 on Sept. 27. It hasn't won a league game since beating Mississippi Valley State 27-7 on Sept. 6.

On paper, Henderson State might have an edge on Ouachita Baptist this year. Before last week's blowout 41-14 loss to Delta State, the Reddies had two conference losses by a combined four points.

In a three-point loss to West Georgia, Henderson fumbled at the 3 trying to score, while two extra points and a potential game-winning field goal were blocked in a one-point loss to Harding.

Meanwhile, Ouachita Baptist lost to No. 1 Valdosta State, No. 3 North Alabama and No. 19 Southern Arkansas in October. The Tigers scored an impressive 48-21 victory over Arkansas-Monticello and quarterback Cory Allred, the Gulf South's leader in total offense.

OBU has the same kind of power running attack that Delta State used to build a 27-0 lead on Henderson last week. Once the Reddies get down like that, their running offense isn't set up for big comebacks.

The Tigers expect leading rusher MontoyaBrown (707 yards, 9 TDs) back from knee and ankle injuries that forced him out of last week's 37-27 loss to Southern Arkansas. Even ifBrown's not at full speed, Josh Holcomb proved he can lead the offense with 176 yards and three touchdowns.

Neither coach thinks they will have an advantage this week.

"This is one of those games when you can't just nail it down to two or three things because of the nature of the rivalry," Knight said. "I'd have to give you a list of about 25 things that have to go right to win this ballgame, and I'd need a couple hours to talk to you about it."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index