BEALLSVILLE - Wayne Clark has already had a taste of what life is going to be like at high school football games this fall. And, he has to admit, it's going to be an acquired one.
''It was strange, it really was,'' he said.
Clark took a seat in the stands for Beallsville's scrimmage against Barnesville recently and it certainly was a change of pace. Now, watching a football game from the stands is commonplace for most folks, but Clark hadn't done so since 1988.
Wayne Clark has hung up his clipboard after 25 years of organizing and keeping statistics for the Beallsville football team.
See, starting in 1989, Clark was the statistician for the Blue Devils football team. And, following last season, he stepped down from that role after a quarter century. Hanging up the clipboard as he likes to call it.
''I probably should've quit after (former head coach) Dave (Caldwell) quit after 23 years,'' he said laughing during a break in his duties as pastor at First Christian Church. ''But, for some reason, 25 seemed to be the magical number that I wanted to reach just to say I'd done it for 25 years.
''I'd decided I'd left (my wife) Linda alone on Friday nights long enough.''
The job of a football statistician doesn't involve just sitting and watching a football game for three hours on a Friday or Saturday night for 10 weeks in the fall. Those who sign up for the job pretty much devote their entire weekends to it. Statisticians are normally the first persons to arrive in the press box and, in many cases, the last persons to leave.
Statisticians arrive at the game site a few hours before everyone else, in order to get everything ready. Then, following the game, they add up the numbers and report them to the various media outlets.
Later in the weekend, the stats need to be reported to media outlets again for Athletes of the Week, etc.
All told - in addition to doing the job for seven years in Michigan - Clark figures he kept stats at about 320 games, not including scrimmages and playoff games.
''Linda and I have been married 44 years, so that's about one year almost,'' he said. ''She's been very supportive and, basically, has given up one year of our marriage with football.''
Clark celebrated another anniversary this month - his 25th as pastor of his church, on August 6th. It's by far his longest tenure with any congregation.
A native of Athens, Ohio, Clark attended Kentucky Christian College. Then, he worked as a youth minister in Hawaii for two years before serving in Michigan for eight years, Wisconsin for three years and Kentucky for six years.
He met his wife, a Bluefield, W.Va. native, while in college.
It was while working in Kentucky that Clark first received an invitation from the Beallsville church. However, at the time, he was serving as a junior varsity girls' basketball coach at a school and his daughter, Linaka (Linda in Hawaiian) was on a pretty good varsity team there.
Having been a manager/trainer on Albany's state team in 1965, he wanted Linaka to possibly experience going to state, too. So, he turned down First Christian Church's offer.
Clark stayed in touch with the folks in Beallsville. Then, about a year and a half later, he heard from Delmas Moore, representing the church. Moore informed Clark they were interested in his services again.
''Doors started opening for me that was meaning for me to come to Beallsville,'' Clark said.
Call in divine intervention, if you will.
''Most times, you don't get a second shot at coming to a church.''
In 1989, Clark and his family, which also included a son, Greg, arrived in Monroe County. And, from the start, he fell in love with the community.
''I love it here,'' he said. ''I've had offers, fairly big offers, almost double my salary to go other places since I've been here.
''I learned a long time ago that money doesn't buy happiness and I'm happy I'm here. I don't know what I'd be somewhere else. This has been home.''
Clark immediately became involved in sports at Beallsville High School. He helped Bob Phillips coach girls' basketball and later helped Terry and Rick Jarrett, too. He kept basketball stats for the boys and girls until his son went to Kentucky Christian College to play hoops.
Greg Clark eventually became a part of the KCC squad that won an NCCAA national crown. That is one of Clark's top athletic highlights, along with going to state in high school, and Beallsville's 1994 state playoff run in football.
That Blue Devils team was just one of many that delivered Clark memories.
''We've had some great teams and some great athletes,'' he said.
Rick Meade, one of the members of that 1994 team, now leads the Blue Devils.
''It would've been really nice to have worked with Rick and I wish he and the team a successful season,'' Clark said.
Clark said he and Caldwell, along with Caldwell's predecessor, Paul Kanzigg, got along great.
''I think Dave was always pleased with my stats,'' Clark said. ''I know when I told him I was hanging up my clipboard he said he always appreciated the years I did stats for him.''
Clark always prided himself on accuracy and fairness.
''I'd always check with other people in the press box and so forth,'' he said. ''It was more difficult when the field had no hashmarks.''
For years, Clark did stats by hand. Then, in 2009, Larry Stukey created a computer program that made the job simpler.
Through it all, Moore, Beallsville's former athletic director, was already around as a co-worker and friend.
''I've worked with other ADs at other schools and Delmas, by far, is the best AD I've ever worked with,'' Clark said. ''He's very, very supportive of the kids and would do anything for them.''
Clark, too is a staunch supportive of Beallsville Schools. He's a stanch supporter of keeping the new school open and keep a school in the community.
''The school is the heart of the community,'' he said. ''I think it would be terribly horrible if central office and the school board allows it to be closed.
''I've been proud to be a Beallsville Blue Devil and I want that to continue for a long time to come.''
Clark is confident Monroe County is his last stop.
''I have no intentions of leaving here,'' he said. ''You never know in the ministry. But I've already purchased two cemetery plots and this is home to me and this is where I'll be buried someday.
''We love it here and we love the people and we love the community.
''I think you can find a lot of great places and this is a phenomenal place to live.''
If you know of someone involved in sports in the Ohio Valley whom I could feature as an Ohio Valley Unsung Hero, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at RickThorp1