South of Markham: Little Rock’s first Football Miracle
March 18-24, 2019
By Kris Rutherford
Razorback football fans coming of age at the turn of the 21st century likely place the 2002 “Miracle on Markham” against LSU in War Memorial Stadium high on their lists of Hog memories. But Little Rock hasn’t always been so kind to the Razorbacks; in fact, on October 26, 1934, the Hogs were dealt perhaps the cruelest blow against an in-state opponent in the program’s first half-century. The nemesis wasn’t nearly as powerful as Oklahoma, Texas, or even Ouachita Baptist, an Arkansas powerhouse at the time. No, on one autumn afternoon in 1934, Arkansas’ freshman squad, a group of players touted as the future of Razorback football arrived in Little Rock to face perhaps the most laughable of the state’s collegiate programs, the Little Rock Junior College (LRJC) Trojans. Even the Trojans feared the annihilation that lay in store for them.
LRJC, formed in 1927, didn’t have much football success in its early years. Beginning in 1930, LRJC posted a 4-18-4 record over its first four seasons, beaten in those 26 games by a humbling combined score of 469-49. LRJC scored in only six of those games, taking until the fourth game of its second season to tally a point. The Trojans played far more home games than on the road, but Kavanaugh Field, located in the general area of today’s Central High School baseball field, was poorly drained and frequently a mud pit. Newspaper accounts told of football hitting the surface because punters’ couldn’t lift their mud-caked to strike the ball. After four miserably unsuccessful seasons, Coach Alvin Longstreth considered disbanding the program to concentrate on basketball. But he decided to give it one more chance in 1934.
Coach Longstreth arrived at LRJC following 1930 head coach Johnnie Estrada’s forgettable winless and scoreless season. Longstreth later recalled that he was hired to coach football but paid to teach chemistry at LRJC, experience that would serve him well later in life. Longstreth had starred on the gridiron at what is now Arkansas Tech University before spending two seasons as head coach of Kentucky’s Centre College, leading his team to a conference championship. He was not used to losing, but when he gazed upon the 12 players who turned out for the 1931 LRJC squad, none having reached the age of 18, he had to question his decision in leaving Kentucky.
The Trojans met the 1931 season with the same lack of offensive prowess of the previous season, dropping its first three games without scoring a point. In the fourth game, LRJC finally broke through, scoring twice in a 13-12 win over El Dorado Junior College. The euphoria was short-lived. A week later Texarkana Junior College topped the still glowing Trojans 86-0.
In 1932, 18 players turned out for Coach Longstreth, and they shocked local fans with an opening week win over Arkansas State Teacher’s College in Conway. It would be the high point of the season. The 1933 squad returned to Kavanaugh Field with an improved defense but a muted offensive attack. The only bright spots on offense appeared to be Troy Keith, a pass-catching end from Little Rock High School who had also been an athlete at Fort Leavenworth Citizens Military Training Camp, and Ray Goss, a former star running back at North Little Rock and quarterback of the Trojans. Despite their efforts, points on the scoreboard remained as scarce as tallies in the win column. LRJC football seemed taking a lonesome road to nowhere. Fortunately for Longstreth, his young players seemed to be enjoying the ride.
Kris Rutherford is lives in Maumelle and has authored three books and over 60 articles on Texas League Baseball History, many published on the League’s webpage. He has written three youth sports novels and collaborated on two additional book-length works. A member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and the Society of Baseball Research, he is a contributor to the new book, “The Team that Couldn’t Hit: The 1972 Texas Rangers.” Kris and his wife, Karen, own and publish the Roxton Progress, a small North Texas newspaper.
(Photo source: NLRHS Yearbook)