The Jackson Ironmen Chain Gang

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Come rain or shine, four men are always on the sidelines for the Jackson Ironmen.

That isn’t just a saying: they were on the field, ready to work in the midst of torrential rain during Jackson’s game against Wheelersburg on Sept. 25.

Hank McClurg, Dusty Sexton, Butch Cooper, and Brian Moore all remained upbeat alongside the playing field, moving the chains during each possession, but it was not their first go-round.

McClurg, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, has been moving the chains for 36 years. To put his connection with area football in perspective, McClurg, an alumnus of nearby Oak Hill High School, played on the last Oak Hill squad to beat Jackson during the early 50s.

“I love football, it’s my favorite sport,” McClurg proudly said, drenched in rain.

For Sexton and Cooper, love for football is evident, but there are also familial bonds tying them together. Sexton is father to Jackson quarterback Hunter Sexton, first cousin to Cooper, and son of former chain gang member Paul Sexton. Paul passed away in 2012, but the current gang continues to keep him in mind.

“Well he would say that we’re soft,” Cooper laughed, thinking about what his uncle would say to them now.

One night, deep into his tenure as a chain gang member, Sexton decided to take a night off and hand over the reins to Dusty and Cooper. The rookie chain movers deserted their post to grab a mid-game snack, unaware that returning to their jobs late would result in them being penalized.

They returned late and Paul was none too pleased, but Cooper and Dusty did eventually get the hang of the game time position. Moving the chains, along with playing the sport itself, has become a valued family tradition.

“It’s just great to be that close to them and watch our kids do it like our fathers did for us,” Sexton said.

Butch Cooper’s son Billy also plays for the team, but he insisted Billy takes on a bigger role when representing the school and community.

“He’s not only my son, but he’s the community’s son,” Cooper said. “We love and live and die Jackson football.”

Unlike Sexton and Cooper, Moore did not have any familial ties looping him into the position. Rather, the life-long Jackson quickly made his case to part of the unit.

Prior to the Wheelersburg game, Moore found a way into Jackson’s locker room to listen to Coach Any Hall’s pregame speech.

“I’m pumped up!” he exclaimed as he greeted the game officials.

Moore even admitted he can show a bit too much bias for his hometown team.

Both Billy and Hunter embraced Moore prior to taking the field, reaffirming Moore’s spot in the chain gang family.

“We always say it’s Christmas in the fall because we can’t wait,” Moore said. “When it’s over we can’t wait for the next season,”

Though none of the four will ever show up in a box score, Dusty insisted he still feels like a part of the game.

“You get to feel like you’re part of the game by running the chains.”