WHITE, S.D. (KELO) — High school football across South Dakota has wrapped up its regular season, and for a man in a small community northeast of Brookings, it marks over 50 years of service to the sport.
If you’ve attended a football game at Deubrook High School anytime in the last half a century, Clarence Simmons was likely there supporting his favorite team, too.
Simmons graduated from Deubrook High School in 1967, and over the last 50 years or so, he’s been a football official, part of the chain gang, and for 47 years, a scoreboard operator.
He has always had a love for football, and he still has his cleats from when he played in high school.
“Back in the day it was farm kids, well we were poor, and the school had a big box of spikes, and you just picked out a pair of spikes and they let you use them. Well when I turned mine in at the end of the four years, they were broke at the bottom, and our coach was Larry Bride, he says, ‘Clarence, why don’t you just keep them,’ so I still have them spikes as memorabilia,” Simmons said.
Simmons worked closely alongside friends and community members Clifford Wright and Leroy DeBeer to acquire and install a scoreboard for the Deubrook football field in 1975, and Simmons has since been the operator.
Along with running clock, he also shoots off a track starting pistol at the end of every quarter.
“Cliff Wright had a .22 starting pistol for some reason. He brought that and he says, ‘Well Clarence, you shoot it off at the end of every quarter,’ so I did. And somewhere along the line, not too many years ago, they got me a new .30 caliber,” Simmons said.
“It is a staple, and it’s funny to watch the people who have been coming here for 40 years like Clarence or more, and they know the gun is going to sound at the end of every quarter, and they still jump. But people love it and it’s just a piece of what we’ve had here for one of those traditions that you have at a football field and a football team,” Brad DeBeer said.
Brad DeBeer, Deubrook activities director and dean of students, says Simmons has always been a long-time family friend.
“I don’t even really have to send him an email or text or call him, I just know he’s going to show up. Now I do it out of courtesy letting him know that the season’s getting ready to start, but you always know he’s going to be here. He’s going to walk in at 20 minutes before 7:00. He’s going to have everything ready to go,” he said.
Don Ray was principal and activities director at Deubrook High School from 1984 to 2009. He says there was never a worry when it came to making sure all the duties were taken care of in the crow’s nest on game days.
“He just loved to do it and did it for all those years. I never really had to go ask every fall, ‘want to come do it?’ I just kind of knew and he kind of showed up and away we would go. It was always a blessing and stuff to work with the people in the crow’s nest, and Clarence and Clifford Wright were always those two people for me anyway. And it was always fun. Never had to worry about it,” Ray said.
“You just knew they were going to be there. They were staples of not only the community, but the school and support that they give. You know, being there and being there for the kids. Our kids knew who they were. Our kids still know who Clarence is,” DeBeer said.
Simmons has received multiple awards for his service to the Deubrook High School. His love for the community and school he grew up in keeps bringing him back.
“A lot of very heartwarming things. Winning the state tournament. We had a great bunch of kids. They played together for so long and they were quite a unit 12 games in a row. And watching the young guys mature. They get faster, they get stronger, they get smarter. It’s fun watching them every year get better. I love the community. I love the town. It’s a great place to raise kids,” he said.
And the big question: How much longer does he plan to come back?
Simmons: As long as my health stays good, I’m going to keep doing it if they ask me back.
Carter Schmidt: I think they will. You’ve got kind of a track record.
Simmons: “I guess so. I guess so.”
Deubrook High School built a new football stadium this year, but they are still looking to add a press box for next season.