Keeping score: Ontario stat keeper closes the door on long career

Ontario football coach Erik Johnson shakes hands with Bill Ragsdale at an awards ceremony honoring Ragsdale’s dedication to the Tiger sports programs. Ragsdale kept stats for the boys and girls basketball teams and the football squad for more than three decades. (Enterprise photo/Lauri Babcock).

ONTARIO – For more than three decades, Bill Ragsdale chronicled the ups and downs of the Ontario High School football and basketball teams.

With a basketball or football stat book in hand, he watched from the sidelines or press box as one crop of young athletes after another stepped onto the field and the hardwood.

Since 1977, he endured long bus rides across the state to watch a thousand young men and women chase prep glory in small gyms and brightly lit grid fields.

During his time as the Tigers’ statistician, Ragsdale watched more than 400 games and served under eight different coaches.

At the end of the 2018 football season, Ragsdale put down his pencil for the last time.

The May Trucking retiree said he isn’t entirely comfortable ending his long stint at the stat table.

“It is kind of tough when you do something that many years,” said Ragsdale, 75.

He takes fond memories, however. The best part, he said, was watching young athletes evolve.

“You see them come in as freshman and they grow up and grasp the game,” said Ragsdale.

Over the years he recorded more than 80,000 rushing yards, 56,000 passing yards, 577 touchdowns and more than 12,000 points scored.

Ragsdale’s precision with statistics earned him accolades from coaches and fans and was based a special kind of dedication. Accuracy, he said, was always the crucial piece to his work.

“I always felt like you should be able to take my stats and use them to write the game,” said Ragsdale.

He was methodical. After a football contest, for example, Ragsdale would spend time going through game film and rechecking every run, pass and reception.

“I spent as much time getting it right as I spent at the game,” said Ragsdale.

He utilized the same meticulousness for basketball games.

“Before I left the bench, everything had to balance,” said Ragsdale.

Ontario football coach Erik Johnson called Ragsdale’s work “phenomenal.”

“Only an individual with as much loyalty and passion for Ontario could do the work Bill did on a weekly basis for four decades. He will be tough to replace. There were more than just numbers to those stats,” said Johnson.

Ragsdale did not receive any pay for his work. He said he decided to volunteer because he enjoyed prep sports.

“I have no regrets. It has been very rewarding,” he said.

Ragsdale said his payment was the knowledge his job was important, not only to the players, but coaches as well.

“Kids kind of get hung up on them but a good set of stats is very important for coaches. They can draw from them the progress of players, what works, what doesn’t,” said Ragsdale.

Specific games stick out for Ragsdale. One was a semifinal football game between Ontario and Sisters in 2007.

“That was a game that was back and forth,” said Ragsdale.

The Tigers lost by one point.

“We went for two and didn’t make it. That was the best game I’ve ever watched,” said Ragsdale.

Other memories include a trip to Madras.

“It was so cold on that bus. No one was hollering about sitting too close,” he said with a laugh.

Once, because of snow, the Tiger bus took two nights getting back from a basketball game in Milton-Freewater.

“I’ve been stuck up on the pass in a bus more than a few times,” said Ragsdale.

In the early years, Ragsdale and his wife, Judy, drove together to nearby games, he said. As his children grew up, they went to the games as well.

“In the early years it gave us something we could do as a family,” he said.

Ragsdale’s daughter, Lauri Babcock, said she remembers her early years revolving around game time – either as a player at her own games, or with her dad.

“It was a family thing,” said Babcock.

Babcock said she was always amazed by her father’s devotion to the stats.

 “It takes a lot of dedication and he has a lot of pride in his work,” said Babcock.

Ragsdale said he likes football, but his first passion is basketball stats.

“I like it because you are one of the officials in charge of the game. Football, you are kind of removed from that,” said Ragsdale.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.