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Clough makes impact on No. 4 Southside

Chaplain Todd Clough prays with the Southside High School football team Thursday. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)

Every player on the Southside football team has a position coach they look to for instruction each week, and while Todd Clough may not have the word “coach” in front of his name, what the players look to him for is just as important.

“They all have a position coach, and I guess when I walk through those doors each week, my job is to spiritually lift them up,” said Clough, the Panthers’ team chaplain.

Clough, a 1984 graduate of Southside and All-County/All-Area defensive back, took time earlier this week to discuss his role with the team. The fourth-ranked Panthers are preparing for Friday night's first round Class 5A playoff game at home against Wenonah.

He meets with the team on Thursdays and is on the sideline at every game. He sees his role as an encourager for the Panthers, and, most importantly, to be there for a team member whenever he’s needed.

“If they want to have a moment of silent prayer, or they want me to come pray for them in private, I’ll do whatever,” said Clough, an outreach minister at Whorton Bend Baptist Church. “My role is to be a spiritual leader and build these kids up. When those kids are down and out, and they can’t take anymore, whether it’s school or football, I always encourage. I’m an encourager.”

Clough, who was a football referee for the past eight years until now, has had an interesting perspective of the Panthers’ undefeated run in 2013. He said he could tell in the summer — when he started leading chapel with the team — they were a special group because of the existing bond. He said they shared with him last week that most have played together since they were 6 years old, and the chemistry between them is second-to-none.

“There’s a lot of love on that team,” Clough said. “What’s kept this thing together is they’ve been united since they were kids. And from the first chapel session we had to the one we’ll have this week, it’s about God.”

Interim coach Ron Daugherty has seen the positive effect Clough has had on the team.

“Todd does a great job for us,” he said. “He connects so well just getting in there and talking to them. And, you can tell we’re good for him, too.”

Clough admitted the past few years haven’t been easy after the loss of his 11-year-old son Ben, who died of cancer. He had envisioned Ben playing for Southside one day, as he did in the early-’80s, but “God had another plan.”

“Even though it’s been two years, when you lose a child, it’s a void you can’t explain,” said Clough, who’s married to Jenny and has two other children, Adam and Taylor. “I think me being around these young men, they help me in a lot of areas more than I probably help them.

“When you lose a child, it’s tough because you can very easily play the blame game. We’ve never done that and always knew God had a plan.

“And it’s the same thing with that football team — God has a plan for them.”