Ashland's eyes in the sky

Every once in a while, Robert Bruce gets a little confirmation. Yes, there's a reason why each autumn for the last decade he's spent his Friday nights high above Walter A. Phillips Field — or other football fields throughout the state — shouting out numbers and furiously scribbling notes while other Grizzly fans munch on popcorn and cheer on the boys in red and white.

Like one encounter at the Ashland Safeway during the 2012 season. While checking out, Bruce was approached by a woman who noticed that he was wearing Ashland's colors. After finding out the woman's son was a young Ashland High football fan, Bruce extended an invitation. Bring him up to the booth, he said, and we'll give him the full tour. That sounds great, she said, but he can't because he's confined to a wheelchair. That's when Bruce told the woman what he's proudly told countless others: That's OK, because the boy can follow the game on the web through live stats and, usually, live video.

"I wrote the link down and handed it to her," Bruce said. And that night, Bruce told everybody else in the booth about the encounter, which made his job, for one night at least, a little more meaningful.

Bruce, who sold computer chips for 20 years, and Kevin Glick, a web developer, make up the team that delivers live Ashland High football statistics to anyone with an internet connection and a computer or mobile device. They can be found at Tonight, the Grizzlies face Lebanon. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

The site is a free service that provides every piece of information about a game a fan could want, from current down and distance to past drives and complete individual stats. It refreshes every 60 seconds.

Bruce has been using a laptop to provide a complete statistical breakdown of every Grizzly game to the AHS coaches and media since the 2004 season, but teamed up with Glick to unveil live stats three years ago. Together, they produce what may be the only live stats prep football service in the state, though Bruce isn't sure why.

"I see people sitting down, filling out that old football register form," he said, "and then you have to add that data up. I'm sitting there saying, 'Why would you want to kill yourself like that when you can use the technology in order to enable the enjoyment of the game for the fans?'"

That enjoyment comes at a price, however, though Bruce, father of former Ashland Grizzly Robby Bruce, and Glick, father of current Grizzly Carter Glick, are happy to pay that price on Friday nights.

While the fans kick back and enjoy the game, Bruce and Glick have to be dialed in on every play in order to accurately record who touched the ball, who made the tackle, where the ball ended up and how much time is on the clock, over and over again for roughly two and a half hours. They work in tandem to get the job done, with Glick manning the laptop, keying in code combinations he's memorized, and Bruce, eyes glued to his binoculars, calling out numbers and recording the same play by play but on paper as a backup. Occasionally, they have to cross check each other's numbers and make corrections during time-outs, but they've become remarkably efficient.

Glick says neither he nor Bruce has fallen behind during a game since midway through last season.

That's a big improvement over Glick's first night with the stat crew. It was Ashland's 2010 season opener at Klamath Union, and Glick was on his own, working solo because Bruce couldn't make the trip. At the time, they relied on different software that was not as user friendly.

"I fumbled through it," Glick said. "As far as the computer side of things goes, it was a disaster. The older software wasn't as intuitive — I had to use the mouse, which bothered me. I ended up having to go through the paper version after the game two or three times to fix mistakes."

As if attempting to keep up with a football game one keystroke at a time isn't difficult enough, Bruce and Glick often have to do so in unfavorable conditions. They've been stuck in the same booth with the Ashland coaches and even crammed into the stands with the fans. North Eugene, Willamette and Churchill — all of which are no Ashland's Midwestern League schedule — are cited as the worst places to keep stats because those are places where Bruce and Glick are sitting in the bleachers.

But Glick doesn't complain about sitting next to the Grizzly coaches because, he explains, hearing head coach Charlie Hall call out the plays gives the stats crew a little head start since Glick will already know whether it's a run or a pass and who is supposed to get the ball.

It's only a slight advantage, but when you've been conditioned to attack a keyboard with every handoff, pass, fumble, kick, punt, interception, tackle and touchdown, every second counts.

"I kind of like being the stats nerd," Glick says with a laugh. "And it keeps me more involved in the game."

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