The following is a slight rewrite of an article published last year about the 1991 UCA Bear football team. 2016 marked the 25th anniversary of their NAIA national championship. The team will be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame on Friday, Oct. 13 at UCA’s McCastlain Hall.
The roster that season was made up almost entirely of Arkansas players. Guys from every corner and classification in the state.
There were players from Little Rock – Central, Catholic, McClellan and Hall. Players from both Fort Smith Northside and Southside. Players from soon to be boomtowns Springdale, Cabot and Benton.
And of course many were from small towns like Atkins, Altheimer, Stuttgart, Paris, DeWitt, Crossett, Salem and Newport. But the winning play had a decidedly Conway feel.
Mike Isom had been an assistant on Harold Horton’s staff for several years. When Horton left UCA following the 1989 season, Isom was named as his replacement. Isom was a 1966 Conway High graduate, and a member of their 1964 state championship football team. He went on to play collegiately for the Bears.
Fast forward back to 1991, following two pretty decisive playoff victories, Isom’s Bears travelled to Wilberforce, Ohio, for the NAIA national championship game.
Their opponent would be Central State (Ohio). The Marauders were a powerhouse back then. They had won the NAIA national title in 1990 and would win again in 1992 and 1995, but 1991 would belong to the Bears.
With eight seconds left, the score was tied 16-16, and the fate of the Bears was in the hands, and on the foot, of a trio of former Wampus Cats.
The kicker was Steve Strange, Jr. who was an All-AIC performer and ultimately named All-American that year. His holder from 1990 was gone, so for his senior season, Strange asked his friend and high school holder Johnny Kennedy to come out.
Kennedy was a member of the UCA baseball team, but had played quarterback quite ably for the Wampus Cats. He is now head track coach and assistant football coach at CHS.
The deep snapper was Andrew Adlong, who graduated from Conway High in 1990, three years behind Strange and Kennedy.
So for the Bears’ title hopes, it all came down to a Conway coach calling for the game winning field goal to be snapped, held and kicked by three Conway boys.
And for good measure, the radio play-by-play would be done by another Conway High product, Bill Johnson:
"…Here we go. It’ll be, with the ball squarely in front of the goal post, a 22-yard field goal attempt. Johnny Kennedy holding, the game riding on this… 22 yards. Steve Strange, the Conway senior… Adlong centering… he does… the kick is up!… it’s long enough!!… IT’S GOOD!!!…"
For ticket information contact ASHOF executive director Terri Conder Johnson at (501) 313-4158 or email@example.com.