On Friday night, Clayton McClelland will be in the same place he’s been every time Boyd County has hosted a football game for the last nine years, wearing the same colors, working toward the same goal.
He’ll be at Tom Scott Field sporting red and black coaching gear, trying to do his part as an assistant coach to guide a group of kids to victory.
This time, though, it won’t be Lions red and black. McClelland, a 2004 Boyd County graduate and veteran assistant there, is helping out at Lawrence County on a part-time basis this season.
McClelland will be in the press box Friday night providing an extra pair of eyes and relaying information by headset to the Bulldogs’ sideline staff. They’ll use it to plan play calls to try to beat his alma mater, which McClelland has never coached against in football before.
"It’s gonna be different," McClelland said. "It’ll be weird being on the opposite side of the field. Being here for as long as I’ve been, I’ve always been on one sideline, or if I was up in the press box, I was in the same room."
Coaching staff changes are more the rule than the exception in high school sports today, especially when a new head coach comes to town, as Evan Ferguson did for the Lions this season. What sets McClelland’s move apart is that his paychecks still come from Boyd County. He is the high school special education site manager.
“It is part of the profession," McClelland said of moving on to Lawrence County. "With that being said, wanting to stay involved with football and being around it my whole life, it was an opportunity to search elsewhere, but at the same time, wishing the best of luck to the people coming in and having a good program."
McClelland is one of at least six active coaches who teach in a northeastern Kentucky school district and coach in another district.
To a man, they try to keep the two gigs separate.
By day, Lance Evans is a fourth-grade teacher in the learning behavior disorder unit at Summit Elementary. After school, he coaches Russell’s freshman football team and helps guide running backs and cornerbacks on the varsity staff.
Evans doesn’t wear Russell apparel to school, he said, and doesn’t think his students even know he coaches there.
“Where I’m at in elementary school, and I’m away from the high school and even the middle school at Boyd County,” Evans said, “I don’t see it honestly as a huge problem. They’ve been great at Summit. ... It kinda is the best of both right now.”
After losing his job coaching Russell’s boys basketball team in 2015, Merle Kidwell went to 63rd District archrival Greenup County as an assistant for three years. He continued to teach English at Russell High and had his former players in class.
“I coached the players, so I still cared about them as people,” Kidwell said. “I never discussed the games involving the two teams. Definitely a fine line with the players.”
McClelland remains involved in Boyd County’s football program, too, at the youth level. He coaches a third-grade JFL team on which his 8-year-old son, Carson, plays, so he sports Lions gear on Saturdays. And McClelland serves on the JFL board.
McClelland, who turns 33 next week, also remains the head coach of Boyd County’s wrestling and boys track and field teams.
"As far as my job goes, Boyd County has always been great to me, and Carson comes first, as far as sports goes," McClelland said. "(Boyd County) is where his friends are, this is where he wants to play, and I’m gonna do my best to support him and be supportive of the kids that go to Boyd. There’s a lot of good kids here, kids I’ve watched grow up from elementary school, and I want them to do well."
McClelland also wants to keep coaching football, though. He survived three head coaching changes in nine years on Boyd County’s staff, serving at different times as the Lions’ offensive coordinator and their co-defensive coordinator. But Ferguson didn’t retain him when he came on board last offseason — which McClelland chalked up without bitterness as an occupational hazard — so he needed a landing spot.
Lawrence County coach Alan Short, McClelland’s teammate in 2004 at Campbellsville University, had tried to recruit him to join the Bulldogs’ staff on multiple occasions. In January, McClelland brought it up himself in a phone conversation with Short.
"(McClelland) has essentially been Mr. Boyd County his entire life, and he’s got too good a situation there to leave his teaching job to come (full-time). I know he really respects his administration," Short said. "He was just wanting to stay involved with high school football, and with our pre-existing relationship, it was a no-brainer."
The divergence of McClelland’s teaching and coaching gigs hasn’t created drama during the school day, he said. McClelland’s room at Boyd County High is next door to Ferguson’s.
"I’ve tried to be helpful from time to time," McClelland said. "We met early on (after Ferguson took over), it didn’t work out, but it’s been good. We’ve talked football in the hallway and wished each other good luck.
"The same thing with the kids — when they come down the hallway, I’d say, ‘Hey, keep your head up,’ after a tough loss, and ‘good luck’ before a big game. It’s been good. It’s not been anything bad whatsoever. Everybody’s been supportive and they all understand."
McClelland tries to make it to Lawrence County a couple of times a week, including game days, he said.
"I told them, this week I get it easy," he joked. "I’m gonna wait right here and I’ll meet them in the parking lot."
McClelland and Evans are two of four Boyd County district faculty who coach football elsewhere. McClelland is the only one tasked with competing against the Lions this season.
The other two, though, face each other annually. Brent Terry, Boyd County High’s freshman health teacher, is Spring Valley’s offensive line coach. Ray Brooks, who works in the behavior disorder unit at Catlettsburg Elementary, coaches Huntington High’s defensive line.
The Timberwolves visit the Highlanders on Nov. 8.
"I always wish Spring Valley the best except maybe one night a year," said Brooks, who was Boyd County’s head coach in 2012. "We jab a little bit when the Huntington High-Spring Valley game rolls along, but other than that, we help each other the best we can."
Concurred Terry, a Lions assistant from 2005-11: "Ray and I are good friends. ... Him being the (Huntington High) defensive line coach and me coaching the (Spring Valley) O-line has led to some friendly chatter, especially when he worked at BCHS and we ate lunch together every day. That was fun."
Evans doesn’t mind that the Red Devils and Lions aren’t playing this season for the first time since 1992. But working at an elementary school makes it easy to keep the two jobs separate, he said.
“Coach Terry told me, "You’re gonna be out of it a little bit, because you’re not in the (same) system (you coach in),’" Evans said, "but he said, ‘Make the best of it and it’ll work out.’"
All four appreciate their respective teaching situations, they said.
"We love teaching at Boyd County, and we teach here by choice," Brooks said.
Among other active northeastern Kentucky dual-district employees are John Stacy, who teaches at Ramey-Estep High in the Boyd County district and coaches freshman basketball at Russell, and Michael Sammons, who teaches freshman English at Elliott County High and is an East Carter assistant softball coach. (That’s not the same Michael Sammons who coached football at Greenup County and taught at Boyd County High.)
Like McClelland, Sammons’s worlds will collide. The Lady Raiders meet Elliott County twice a year in 62nd District seeding.
"The kids like to tease me about it," Sammons said. "I take it in good fun, and I just want to see them all do well and let the score be whatever it is."
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