E.A. Sports Today

Hall of Famers

Six new members join the ranks of the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame; 88 now enshrined

Longtime county coach Ragan Clark autographs some program covers Saturday night before being enshrined in the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Bill Clark wouldn’t have missed this for anything in the world.

Ragan Clark has been there every step of his son’s career as a player and a coach, so it was only fitting Bill would be right there – on the eve of Father’s Day – in the front row for his dad’s big day.

Hall of Fame inductee Ragan Clark is flanked by his sons Bill (L) and Tony.

The former Ohatchee and Piedmont football coach who turned struggling programs into winners through hard work and determination was among six county sports luminaries enshrined in the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night at the Oxford Civic Center.

Clark was joined in the induction class of 2018 by former football official Perry Canada, former Donoho coach Karen Hester, former Piedmont quarterback Ray Glover, former Oxford player and state championship coach Jim Hubbert and former Oxford player Wendell Kelley. Canada and Hester were enshrined posthumously.

“He’s one of those guys to never toot his own horn,” Bill Clark said. “Of course as a son you’re always going to be proud of your father and your parents. From coach to coach I know what he’s meant to my career and me and so many others, and they’re the things that got me in coaching, so to get to be here when he’s been so supportive of me over the years it really means a lot.

“It’s one of those things for him to get recognized for what kind of coach and person I’ve always known him to be so it’s good that other people see that too.”

Clark coached basketball and football, and coached in the state all-star game in both sports. He led his alma mater Alexandria to a runner-up finish in the Class 3A state basketball tournament in 1966, his first year as a head coach in any sport at any school, and fourth place in 1967.

He became head football coach at Randolph County for the 1967 season, but the next year moved to Ohatchee, where he really made his mark. After two rebuilding seasons his 1970 team went 11-2 and was the Class 1A runner-up. His final six teams went 53-12-2 with the last two going 20-3.

He also rebuilt teams at Piedmont and Ashville before returning to Ohatchee in 1991 for six more years. Those teams went 35-31 with playoff appearances each of the final five years.

“The biggest thing has been all the teams I had just about, win or lose, they competed,” Clark said. “They worked hard, they did what I asked and that’s what it’s about.”

In addition to building some winning teams, Clark also developed some strong coaches. The staff he assembled at Ashville included son Bill, now the head coach at UAB; John Grass, the former Oxford High and current Jacksonville State head coach; and Rush Propst, the former Hoover coach and current head coach at Colquitt County High School in Georgia.

Later on, Bill had his dad on his staff at Prattville. Ragan was on hand for all the big moments in Bill’s one year as Jacksonville State’s head coach and was there in front row the day Bill was introduced as the new coach at UAB.

There was a chance Grass and Propst would be in attendance Saturday night. Neither made it, but they were very much in the conversation.

Mike Canada proudly displays the plaque that commemorates his father Perry Canada’s induction into the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame.

“I had one of Rush’s players commit to me the other day and we talked and dad came up, as he always does, in some story,” Bill said. “I think the memories I have as a kid of the players coming to the house and how he coached them and how much they looked up to him … that’s what got me into coaching. The interaction with the players.

“The strategy and winning games and all that was great, but it really was how much he cared about the players and how much they respected him, and I still get that any time I run into one of them.”

Canada played football at Anniston, but made his mark as a respected official. He received a Distinguished Service Award from the Alabama High School Athletic Association in 1995 for 39 years of high school officiating in Alabama where he called football, basketball and baseball. He worked 27 years as a football official in the Gulf South Conference. Canada passed away in 2009 and was represented Saturday night by his son Mike.

“He may not have known all the rules, but he knew how to control a game,” Mike Canada said.

Former Piedmont quarterback Ray Glover was first-team All-County in 1954.

Glover was the quarterback of the 1953 and 1954 Piedmont football teams. In his senior season, he was first-team all-county and named an honorable mention all-state back in Class 2A. As a junior, he was second-team all-county and honorable mention all-state. In his induction speech he extolled the impact coaches make on the lives of their players, as they did his.

Hester’s Donoho volleyball teams won AHSAA Class 1A state championships in 1994, 1998 and 2002 and finished second at the state three times. The Falcons won the Calhoun County volleyball tournament championship in 1993. Overall, her volleyball teams were 433-149.

She also built the Donoho girls basketball program from scratch and it won five straight area titles and reached the Elite 8 in 1993. Hester passed away in October after a battle with ALS and was represented Saturday by her brother Randy, mother Connie and former player Daphne Mobley Johnston.

Wendell Kelley was a standout at Oxford in football, basketball and track, then won a national championship as an All-American defensive end at Jacksonville State.

Hubbert, a punishing fullback at Oxford in the 60s, began his coaching career as an assistant in football at Saks in 1974. In 1984, he became head football coach at Maplesville and in 17 seasons as a head coach at Maplesville, Lanett and again Maplesville, his teams were 171-51. His 1996 Maplesville team won the AHSAA Class 1A championship with a 15-0 record.

Kelley played at Oxford and was on the Class 4A-6A all-county football team at linebacker in 1985 as a junior and again as a senior in 1986. He won four football letters at Jacksonville State as a defensive end and was an All-American in 1992 after helping JSU win the Division II national championship.

Jim Hubbert was a punishing fullback at Oxford who went on to become a state championship-winning head football coach.

Brother Randy and mother Connie Hester stand proudly with the plaque commemorating Karen Hester’s induction into the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame.

On the cover: The six newest members of the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame are (from left) Karen Hester (represented by brother Randy Hester), Perry Canada (represented by son Mike Canada), Ray Glover, Wendell Kelley, Jim Hubbert and Ragan Clark.

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