McCallum, Austin High renew classic rivalry

Miles Hansen

The 1966 McCallum-Austin game was a classic game with pivoted on a late first-half touchdown set up by this 25-yard pass from Steve Chrisman to Robert Morgan. Photo from 1967 Knight.
The 1966 McCallum-Austin game was a classic game, which pivoted on a late first-half touchdown set up by this 25-yard pass from Steve Chrisman to Robert Morgan. Photo from 1967 Knight.

The names alone conjure up memories of an old Austin rivalry, fueled by hatred and jealousy. The two West Austin schools battled it out for decades, until Austin High was realigned to a class 5A school in 1988, while McCallum remained a 4A. When McCallum became a 5A school, Austin became a 6A and the school’s still avoided each other in district competition.

But this year–thanks to new UIL enrollment numbers that placed Austin High 70 students under the 6A cutoff–the Maroons are back in McCallum’s district and at least for now, an age-old rivalry has been reinstated.

And it resumed with a bang earlier this month when the two school’s squared off in volleyball in the first district contest between the two schools since the spring of 1988. McCallum fell behind two sets to none but then stormed back to win the final three sets and the match. The Maroons are still trying to catch the Knights in the 25-5A volleyball standings.

The last time the school were in the same district, the two teams were bitter rivals.

“McCallum had a chip on its shoulder,” said Bill Hemphill, a 1984 McCallum graduate. “Austin High had all its Tarrytown kids, with all the money and newer facilities, but our McCallum kids continued to give them competitive games, which made it exciting.”

McCallum and Travis high schools were founded in 1953 in order to relieve overcrowding at Austin. In that sense, the rivalry seems a bit like Luke Skywalker fighting Darth Vader, and in fact, the rivalry goes back a long time ago if not a galaxy far, far away. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, McCallum devoted an entire week to the Austin High game. It was called “Beat Austin Week,” and, as is the case now prior to games with Anderson and LBJ/LASA, all students would demonstrate their Mac pride.

“Never before has there been an event in the life of McCallum such as the ‘Beat Austin’ week,” the 1962 Knight reported. “Loyal students responded by buying and selling stickers, streamers, pom-poms, and tickets, and by decorating their advisory doors, windows, lights, blackboards and bulletin boards boards in blue and grey.”

The rivalry was special not only due to the shared history of the schools but also because a lot of McCallum students had childhood friends that attended Austin High.

“I had a lot of friends who went to Austin High, and it made the rivalry so much more fun,” said Eric Hansen, a 1984 McCallum graduate. “McCallum and Austin had the same hangout place, the Holiday House on Exposition, where we’d talk smack.”

When the historic site of the rivalry closed its doors in 2004, many longtime Austinites mourned the death of the city’s best hamburger. While Knights and Maroons may have both loved the food there, they disagreed on pretty much everything else.

The intensity of the actual football game between the two schools was much like an Anderson or LBJ is today: student sections screaming and bands incessantly playing each school’s songs. MAC alumni remember that the football games always brought out the best in the players on both sides.

“The players always brought more into the game,” said Hemphill, who played wide receiver for the Knights. “I remember always coming away from the Austin game covered in bruises. We beat Austin twice in my four years; it was always split down the middle.”

There has been a lot of anticipation about the resumption of the football rivalry, but it has dimmed somewhat because Austin High lost all of its nondistrict games while McCallum won all of its nondistrict games, but the tables turned when McCallum lost to LBJ to open district play while the Maroons won their district opener against Crockett.

The football team will try to match the volleyball team this Friday when the two teams resume their rivalry. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

MEMORABLE AUSTIN-MAC MOMENTS

1954 – In the first-ever meeting between the two schools, a 55-yard fumble return and a 63-yard run, both for touchdowns, were the most memorable plays as the Knights shut out the Maroons, 19-0.

1962 – Austin snatched the district championship from McCallum, 7-0, by producing the game’s only score on a tricky reverse halfback option touchdown pass to John Stitt.

1966 – McCallum rode a late first-half scoring drive to a 7-0 win over Austin that clinched a spot in the South Zone playoff game for the Knights.

1977 – In the 25th meeting between the two schools, Austin cruised past McCallum, 35-0.

1986 – The Knights defeated the Maroons to win their homecoming game and a silver lining to the team’s first losing season in nine years.

1987 – In what appears to be the final district game played between the two 4-A schools before Austin moved up to 5-A, the Knights defeated the Maroons, 33-14.

1996 – In the nondistrict opener for both teams, McCallum upset favored Austin, 19-14, thanks to a last-minute interception that preserved the Knights’ five-point lead.

2000 – Austin High defeated McCallum 48-0 in a non-district opener that began a dismal eight-game losing streak for the Knights that ended when the Knights defeated Anderson on Homecoming and Travis in the Battle of the Bell.