story by Aric Mitchell
As early as 1912, the town of Magazine was experimenting with competitive football. But those growing up in the late 20th Century had little idea a program there ever existed. Some of the old-timers would talk about it, but for the most part, all the high school students knew was that J.D. Leftwich High School, just off Arkansas 10 in Logan County, Ark., was a basketball school.
Then, as the year 2000 approached, the Rattlers thought they would try their hand at the gridiron again. In the mid-Nineties, the program reset, but was always plagued with participation issues, leading to its 2001 hiatus.
When new Head Coach Josh Jones took over in 2005, he had his work cut out for him, though he admits there wasn’t a lot of pressure from above.
“I asked our superintendent at the time what kind of pressure there would be to win. He just sort of laughed and told me I’d be doing good to field a team,” Jones said.
Jones and Assistant Coach Doug Powell not only went on to field a team, they found themselves with an unbeaten record and a chance to win the school’s first state championship in 2010. But getting there would be difficult. The 13-0 Rattlers would have to face bitter conference rival Danville, sporting a 13-1 record going into the finals.
The Little Johns’ only loss during the season had been a regular season game to Magazine, and Head Coach D.J. Crane’s squad, about 30 miles away, were ready to even the score on the biggest stage in Arkansas: Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium.
Magazine’s Ryan Chambers struck first with a 49-yard TD run. After a missed extra point, the Rattlers would assume a shaky lead of 6-0. While still early in the first quarter, Cory Chambers, Ryan’s brother, stole a missed lateral and took it in for another score. Following a successful point after, Magazine seemed well on their way at 13-0.
But the Danville offense showed signs of life, cutting the lead to 13-7 early in the second quarter. The Rattlers posted one more score before the break, setting a precedent that would make for an uneasy third quarter. In spite of a 20-7 lead at halftime and a Danville offense that was having difficulty holding on to the football, Magazine found themselves just one step ahead of Crane’s squad. Little Johns quarterback Michael Jiles found Blake Noakes on a 62-yard TD pass with 7:42 left in the third, cutting the Rattlers lead to six.
One costly Jiles turnover later, followed by a 29-yard return from Jonathan Terry, and Magazine was back in charge at 26-14. But Danville wouldn’t go away. Early in the fourth quarter, the Little Johns offense struck again on a Jaylon Ester carry. The PAT failed leaving the Rattlers with another thin six-point lead.
Jones admitted being nervous during that final quarter.
“I didn’t feel safe until probably the last two minutes of the game. We’d have something go our way, and then before you knew it, they were right behind us,” Jones said.
But it was the “right behind us” factor that motivated the Rattlers defense through the rest of the game. After taking a 34-20 lead with 8:52 remaining, Magazine was once again tasked with stopping Danville’s offense. To put the game away, the Rattlers defense needed to come up with something big.
That’s when Magazine defensive leader Josh Dority stepped in, recovering another Danville fumble and returning it 25 yards for the TD. The score put Magazine on top 41-20. They would add another before the end to seal the game at 48-20, capping off a perfect season and bringing home the first ever state championship trophy to a town of only 915 people.
While Jones feels the victory is the town’s more than his own, he singles out his squad above all others.
“Really, you can’t do anything without the kids. Coach Powell and I give them a plan, and they’re the ones that carry it out. This is their victory. They earned it.”