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Spicing Battle of Ravine with politics

by Bob Wisener | November 12, 2022 at 4:03 a.m.
Ouachita Baptist quarterback Grant Allen (16) races past Henderson State defensive back Patrick Jones (20) for a 52-yard touchdown during the first quarter of OBU's 31-28 win in the Battle of the Ravine on Nov. 13, 2021, at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia. - Photo by Thomas Metthe of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Ouachita Baptist, with one game left in the regular season, leads the Great American Conference football standings. And, with a four-year term starting in January, another OBU alum occupies the Arkansas governor's mansion.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders' statewide victory Tuesday in her first bid for elected office went down well across the state, especially in Clark County, even if diverting interest from the Battle of the Ravine in Arkadelphia. Sanders' Tigers play crosstown rival Henderson State at 2 p.m. today in the Reddies' Carpenter-Haygood Stadium.

Sanders' father, Mike Huckabee, acceded to the governor's office upon Jim Guy Tucker's 1996 resignation, only Orval Faubus and Bill Clinton serving longer in the office before Huckabee's term expired in 2007. Like Clinton a Hope native, Huckabee completed his bachelor's degree in religion from OBU in 1976, returning to the Arkadelphia campus for an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Huckabee, 67, and wife Janet have been married since 1974, he made aborted bids for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and 2016.

Sanders, one of the couple's three children, is, at 41, the state's first elected female governor. She and Bryan Sanders, whom she met during her father's 2008 White House bid, have three children, son George appearing in a televised campaign ad for his mother. A student-body president at Ouachita Baptist, the governor-elect received in 2004 a Bachelor of Science degree from the school, majoring in political science.

Sanders served as press secretary to Donald Trump from 2019-21, earning the former president's endorsement for elected office after leaving the post.

Former OBU teacher Bob Riley was twice elected Arkansas lieutenant governor, serving 11 days as acting governor in 1975 when newly elected U.S. Sen. and former Gov. Dale Bumpers took office in Washington. Riley retired from teaching in 1980 and, stricken with congestive heart failure, died in 1994, age 69. The late Jim Ranchino served as political scientist at OBU, later earning acclaim as an election-night personality on a Little Rock TV station. He died, age 52, on the night of the 1978 general election in Arkansas.

Arkadelphia native and OBU graduate Rex Nelson, former policy communications director for Mike Huckabee, is senior editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, ascending from a now-defunct local newspaper to serve as Washington correspondent for the former Arkansas Democrat. Nelson is longtime radio voice of OBU football, writing this week in the Democrat-Gazette that he would attend this week's Henderson-Ouachita game, which he has done without fail, he said, since 1963.

Ouachita, 10-0 overall and in the GAC, has won five straight games from HSU, 31-28 last year at Cliff Harris Stadium. The Tigers rank No. 4 in NCAA Division II's Super Region 3. They lead the conference standings by two games over HSU and Harding (No. 8 in the region D2 rankings).

Other in-state GAC games on the final regular-season date, both set for 2 p.m. kickoffs, are Arkansas Tech at Harding (Searcy) and Southern Arkansas at Arkansas-Monticello.

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