When the Johnstown Sir Bills left the Central Valley Conference to join the Foothills Council in 1980, they were headed into uncharted territory with a new skipper, Barry Clawson, at the helm.
It was the start of a 22-year run as head coach for Clawson that resulted in a 99-99-4 overall record, four Foothills Council championships, two Section 2 titles and a NYSSWA Class B state championship.
On Aug. 5, Clawson will be introduced as a member of the Class of 2023 at the 12th annual Capital Region Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Polish Community Center in Albany.
“I am really happy. It is a real honor,” Clawson said. “We played in the Foothills Council, which was an outstanding football conference. The guys we competed against … six of us are in the Hall of Fame.”
Clawson will be joining Foothills Council Hall of Fame coaches Tom Heinzelman (Hudson Falls), Paul Bricoccoli (Glens Falls), Ron Ravena (Ballston Spa), Tony DiCocco (Scotia-Glenville) and Bob Gould (Gloversville).
“We competed against each other for 20 years, and the competition was outstanding,” Clawson said. “We were friends. We would socialize and go out once a year for dinner with our wives. We had a great camaraderie with each other. Each of us respected the other, and when we played against each other, our kids were very well-prepared and well-coached.”
Clawson is still active in coaching high school football, assisting his son Brian, who is the head coach for Shenendehowa.
“This is my 55th year coaching,” he said. “I spent 11 years at Port Jefferson on the island before I got the job at Johnstown. Then when I retired from Johnstown, I had a good friend of mine, Blase Iuliano, from Saratoga who was still working. He and I had an agreement that whoever retired first would come and work for the one still coaching. Blase was still coaching, so when I retired from Johnstown, I went up there for eight or nine years. Then when Brian got that job at Shenendehowa, Blase had retired, thank goodness, because I could not have stayed there with Brian being the head coach at Shen.”
Looking back at his 22-year tenure on the sidelines with the Sir Bills, Clawson said he knew he was becoming involved with a proud program and community.
“Back then, football meant a lot to those two communities [Johnstown and Gloversville],” he said. “I probably wouldn’t have lasted if I hadn’t won it right away.”
In his first year under Clawson, the Sir Bills went 3-6-0 before improving to 7-2-0 in 1981, outscoring opponents 147-82 and winning the first of four Foothills Council titles.
The success reached a pinnacle in 1988 and 1989 with the Sir Bills going 21-1 over the two-year span, winning back-to-back Foothills Council titles, the Section 2 Class B title both years to go with the New York State Eastern Regional and NYSSWA Class B State Championship with an undefeated 11-0 record in 1989. The run continued in 1990 with a 6-3 overall record and outscoring opponents 797-299 over those three seasons.
“We had a great run from 1988-90 when we won two sectional championships, and in 1989, we were undefeated and won the NYS Class B championship. It was before the tournament. This guy put out a sheet and we were voted No. 1 and held that position throughout the season.”
Quick to deflect the credit from his coaching, Clawson said he owes his success to three things:
“There are three reasons why I am going into the Hall of Fame. The first is Jack Dunlap,” he said. “He was the AD who hired me. The second is that we had some great assistant coaches there. Mike Beatty was our line coach, defensive coordinator and did an outstanding job, and Mike Satterlee, who went on to become the AD after Jack. I couldn’t have done it without Mike Beatty and Mike Satterlee. It is an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life.
“The third is we had great kids, it had nothing to do with me. The kids were outstanding. They played above their heads. We were the smallest school in the league and we competed every week and fortunately we had some good teams.”
Clawson is already preparing for the upcoming season at Shenendehowa.
“I don’t go every day, but I watch films all week,” he said. “Brian calls the plays, and I am on the phone with him from up in the tower telling him what defenses they are running. It works out great for me.”
The 2023 season will be just a little more special for the Clawson family.
“Brian has a son, Jason, who is going to be a senior on that team this year. So, there will be three generations of Clawsons involved with Shen football this fall,” Clawson said. “He is going to be a good player, and he has another son who is going to be a freshman and he is a quarterback and another son involved on the lower level.”
THE GLOVERSVILLE-JOHNSTOWN RIVALRY
You cannot talk about high school football in Johnstown or Gloversville without the topic of the intercity game coming up.
“That rivalry, I have never experienced anything like that,” Clawson said. “We used to be invited to the Lions Club — myself, Bob Gould and our two captains — every year for a luncheon before the game. There would be 10,000 to 12,000 people at this game. It was always the last regular season game before sectionals started. If you beat Gloversville and didn’t win a lot of games during the year, it was a successful season. The interest in the two communities was unbelievable. If a holiday like Halloween fell on game night, they changed the holiday because football meant so much to them. ”
Clawson remembers one game in particular.
“My second year, 1981,we were undefeated in the conference, and Gloversville had lost one game,” he said. “We were playing up there. I told Jack Dunlap I wanted to warm up on Knox Field, get on the bus and drive up there 10 minutes before the game and play it. He said ‘Barry, you’re not going to get up there in time.’ There was one lane coming into Johnstown and two solid lanes going into Gloversville that were backed up all the way. He said, ‘I will get a police escort and if you want to do that, we’ll get the police car right in front of the bus and get you up there,’ which is what he did.”
The game finished with Gloversville winning 13-7 and sharing the title with Gloversville and Ballston Spa.