Friday, August 26, 2016

Former Bison, former Jackrabbit coach gives unique perspective on rivalry

Former Lonoke Jackrabbits assistant football coach Danny Hazelwood during the 1986 season. Hazelwood is a 1969 graduate of Carlisle High School. (Courtesy of Danny Hazelwood)

By Mark Buffalo
Staff Writer

LONOKE — With the impending game between the Lonoke Jackrabbits and the Carlisle Bison next week in Lonoke, there are all kinds of associations between the two schools that exist. 
They include:
• New Bison coach Mark Uhiren coached at Lonoke for five years, including four years as head coach. He had an undefeated regular season in 2000. 
• Former Bison coach Jack Keith is now an assistant at Lonoke. 
• Junior Jackrabbits assistant Chris Bailey played on two state finalist teams at Carlisle in 89 and 91. 
• Lonoke superintendent Suzanne Bailey was Carlisle Elementary principal. 
• Carlisle assistant coach Mike King is the husband of new LHS principal Sandi King. 
• Lonoke assistant coach Taggart Moore was a junior high assistant under Uhiren at Marion. 
• Lonoke head coach Doug Bost was a junior high assistant under Uhiren at Lonoke. 
• Lonoke High School assistant principal David Landers played for the Bison in the early part of the 21st century. 
• This is the first matchup between the two teams since 1990 — a 16-6 win by the Bison.

However, one former Bison player and Jackrabbits assistant coach has a unique perspective on the rivalry.
Danny Hazelwood, a 1969 graduate of Carlisle High School, played against the Jackrabbits during his high school years. He was an assistant coach at Lonoke for 16 years during two stints in the 1970s and 1980s after a stellar playing career in both football and track at the University of Central Arkansas. 
During Hazelwood’s senior year at Carlisle — the 1968 season — the Bison tied the Jackrabbits 10-10. Lonoke had an outstanding athletic year as the Jackrabbits won state titles in both baseball and basketball.
“We tied 10-10 that year,” Hazelwood said. “Tom Ed Gooden was an 11th grader that year. I was a senior. We had a good team.” Gooden is one of three former Bison players to have their jersey numbers retired at the school. 
Hazelwood said when he was in high school, it was a different situation than it is now with the size of surrounding schools. 
“Lonoke, Carlisle, Cabot, Hazen, Des Arc and Clarendon were all about the same size schools,” he said. “We were all pretty competitive against each other. Brinkley was in our conference at that time. They had a good team. Lonoke had a good team. Hazen had played some good ball. 
“When you’re playing someone nine miles down the road, it was easy to get fired up for because you saw those people all the time. You competed against them in every sport, whether it be football, basketball or track. Everybody competed and everybody played. Everybody wanted the bragging rights.”
Hazelwood said when he became a coach at Lonoke, he was loyal to the Jackrabbits. 
“You’re loyal to the people who pay you, obviously,” he said with a laugh. “But it was always a tough challenge for me when we played Carlisle. I knew a lot of the people. I knew a lot of their sons that played. I wanted to win, obviously. But I liked to see Carlisle be successful too when I coached here.”
During his coaching tenure at Lonoke, Hazelwood worked for head coaches Bob Mathis and Ronnie Carter. His last year to coach before entering administration was the 1989-90 season. The Jackrabbits beat the Bison at James B. Abraham Stadium. 
As stated earlier, this year’s matchup between the Bison and the Jackrabbits is 26 years in the making. The series was stopped after the 1990 season. A year ago, the seeds were planted for a revival of sorts when Carlisle participated in a benefit scrimmage with Lonoke and Maumelle at James B. Abraham Stadium. 
Hazelwood said he thinks the atmosphere will be great next week. 
“It will be exciting for both communities,” he said. “When a 4A school plays a 2A school, it really shouldn’t be a battle or be close. But because it’s two close communities and the challenge to be successful against a bigger school, Carlisle will play its very best. And Lonoke can’t make mistakes because it will lose if they do.”
Kickoff at James B. Abraham Stadium is set for 7 p.m. The Lonoke Scholarship Foundation is hosting a King Kat fish fry from 5-7 p.m. at the LHS cafeteria, located adjacent to the Gina Cox Center. Tickets are $10 for kids ages 6-11 and $15 for adults. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Alps Laminating at (501) 676-0130. 

Danny Hazelwood as a junior football player at UCA in 1972 (Courtesy of Danny Hazelwood)

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