A couple of quick thoughts as I clean out the wood stove in preparation for another eight months of winter.

Hey, the snowflakes are always closer than we think, right?

* Johnny Clark is going to win his fourth consecutive Pro All Stars Series North points championship barring a colossal collapse in the final four points races of the season.

Clark, of Farmingdale, is chasing his fourth consecutive PASS North points title.

He has five victories — equaling his single season mark — and sits atop the standings with 2,198 points. Ben Rowe of Turner is second with 2,127.

Clark isn’t about to accept the championship, saying “anything can happen.”

While that is certainly true, don’t expect it to happen.

Clark has been dominant all summer, winning five of the 10 races. No one else on the tour has won at least twice. Furthermore, Clark has eight top-five finishes.

“It’s been a good year,” he said. “But we need to keep doing what we’re doing. We need to keep trying to get wins.”

Clark added that his primary focus now is winning races, not points championships.

“After you win your first or second points championship, you really just want to get wins,” he said. “Of course, you still want to win the points, but the wins are great.”

* High school football will look a bit different this season with several teams shifting classes. Pine Tree Conference Class B, for example, says goodbye to Winslow and hello to Mt. Blue and Brewer, among others.

Some questions that can’t be answered any time soon: Can Gardiner and new coach Matt Burgess finally beat Leavitt in a big game?

And, if so, will it even be enough to get to Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, site of the state championship games?

The Tigers appear to have the edge over the Hornets this season, thanks to the return of talented tailback Alonzo Connor, but Mt. Blue may very well be the team to beat in the PTC B.

Looking forward to what should be an exciting season on the gridiron.

* Speaking of high school football, if you take in a few games this season, try to remember this: Some of the kids you see play Friday nights (and Saturday afternoons, for that matter) went through two-a-day practices this offseason. The same can’t be said for the men you’ll watch on Sundays. That’s right, the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement took away padded two-a-day practice sessions. Furthermore, days off were increased and contact was limited in some practices.

* Here’s hoping that all student-athletes stay hydrated and healthy as practices get under way this week.

According to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, conducted from 2005-09, heat illnesses suffered by high school athletes are on the rise.

Earlier this month, two Georgia high school football players died because of heat-related illnesses. Heat was also blamed in the death of an Arkansas prep football player last week.

This is serious stuff and it can happen anywhere in any sport.

Please, be careful out there.

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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