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August 20, 2019

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high school sports:

Clark coaching legend Barnson gets ultimate honor



Clark High School named its football field this month after retired coach Larry Barnson.

Larry Barnson

Clark High School named its football field this month after retired coach Larry Barnson. Launch slideshow »
Prep Sports Now

Commencing Division 1A week

Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer run through some of the plethora of playoff possibilities on the lower level before getting to their picks.

In the week of practice before the 1993 high school football state championship game, Clark High School coach Larry Barnson repeatedly schooled players on how to defend the Hail Mary.

In the 1989 state game, Clark lost in the final seconds to Reno’s Wooster on a long pass. Barnson wouldn’t allow that to happen again.

“Coach Barnson made sure we knew the history and that we were standing on the shoulders of the guys who came before us,” said Joe Bravo, a senior defensive lineman on the 1993 Clark team. “We wanted to win for redemption of the 1989 team. We practiced Hail Mary defense the whole week.”

With Clark leading by four points against Reno’s McQueen late in the fourth quarter at Sam Boyd Stadium, Barnson’s game-planning paid off. McQueen’s late heave was successfully defended and Clark won the state championship, 7-3.

It’s was Barnson’s last football game after more than 30 years at Clark. He led the Chargers to a pair of state football championships, and seven track and field state titles.

Two weeks ago, Barnson was again the center of attention at Clark.

The school named its field after Barnson and debuted a new scoreboard with his name on it, honoring the legend with an extravagant ceremony before a game against Western. Former players from multiple decades attended, including some from out of the area. The Clark band and cheerleaders performed, and Barnson had one last moment on a field where he enjoyed so many victories.

“Some (former players) came up and said, ‘I didn’t have a father, but you were my father,’” said Barnson, 80.

Bravo and Jim Merran, two players from the 1993 team, spent more than a year coordinating the honor. The process involved completing application paperwork with the Clark County School District and speaking in front of the school board to get its blessing.

“No one loved Clark High School more than him,” Merran said. “It surprised me it hadn’t been done already.”

Larry Barnson Field at Collis Stadium sure has a nice ring to it. Angelo Collis, a former Clark administrator, gave Barnson his first teaching job after his graduation from UNLV.

Barnson spent more than three decades at Clark, winning too many football games and track meets to count, and being honored numerous times with coaching accolades.

But those achievements aren’t what made his tenure important. It was all about relationships.

Barnson was a driver’s education instructor and is credited with teaching three decades' worth of Clark students how to drive.

He met his wife, Kathy, during that first year at Clark. She taught English in a classroom next to his. They’ve been married 47 years and still live in the same house near Rancho Drive and Charleston Boulevard in the Clark school boundaries. Their daughters also attended Clark.

“He is one of those guys who not a lot of people have a bad thing to say about,” Bravo said.

Barnson took pleasure in manicuring the track by himself, a process that involved dragging, rolling and watering the dirt. During football season, it was the same way with getting the field ready for Friday nights.

Two weeks ago during the ceremony, with players from yesteryear reminiscing about the glory days of Clark and mingling with current players, Barnson took one last memorable walk across the field now bearing his name. Fittingly, Clark beat Western — its longtime rival — by 64 points.

“It’s always good to look into the past and what (Clark) has accomplished,” current Clark coach Don Willis said. “It’s a great tradition to build on.”

For Barnson, that tradition lives on.

“Our side was packed and overflowing with fans,” he said of the field-dedication ceremony. “It was unbelievable. So nice. So wonderful.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at

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