Harleton senior Jojo Clark is living the dream – the dream of his childhood.
“I would bring my ball and get it signed by the players, thinking, ‘I want to be them one day. I want to be that dude showing out on Friday nights,’” the Wildcats’ tight end said. “It’s awesome. It flips the script. I’ve played football since I was in third grade. I’ve been with this team forever. Everybody that’s a senior now, we used to play peewee football games together. We all dreamed of playing high school football and competing together.”
Clark, like many others, wondered if he would actually get to play football his senior year and as his Wildcats approached the season opener against White Oak, the Roughnecks dropped out due to the coronavirus.
“You finally get to play and then the first game is taken away from you,” Clark said. “It’s like, ‘Man, I hope more games don’t get taken away.’ That hit me hard. I was ready to go because we had been off so long after having baseball taken away from us. After four or five months without playing school sports, you’re ready to go and then the first game, it was, ‘Oh shoot, they canceled on us.’”
The Wildcats first game came in Week 2 as they defeated the Beckville Bearcats 23-20.
“Football is what keeps me going,” Clark said. “It’s a big thing for us. If we didn’t get to play this year, senior year wouldn’t be the same to say the least.”
The tight end has high hopes for his team his senior season.
“I think we can be very good,” Clark said. “Looking at our team, we should be very good. I think we can compete for a district championship, if not win it and then go a few rounds deep into the playoffs and maybe make a run. I think we can make a run this year.”
He has every reason to believe that’s possible, especially after last year’s success where the Wildcats went 5-1 in district play where they earned a district championship before going three rounds deep into the playoffs and finished the year with a 10-3 record.
“Last year, everybody believed in the program,” Clark said. “We all bought into the system. That’s what (head) coach (Kyle) Little did, he turned everything around. Everybody bought into the system. It’s a team. Work wins, that’s what we bought into. We worked our butts off and everybody bought into it.”
“He’s a great senior leader,” Little said of Clark. “At tight end, he’s been very, very good and aggressive at the line at the point of attack, good route running. He catches well with his hands. He’s got about 10 offers right now from colleges, so he’s starting to get a lot of attention. It’s a small school but I think the larger schools will take notice after a little while.”
Clark has a handful of options as to where he could continue his football-playing career at the next level but he’s in no rush to make that decision.
“Right now, my recruitment is wide open,” Clark said. “I don’t know if I want to stay close to home or go off. I have some offers that are far away and then I have offers like ETBU right up the road. I’m not settling on one yet. I’m keeping it open. That’s a big decision. I’m going to talk to coach Little about what fits me best, the offense they run and stuff like that.”
In the meantime, he’s hoping to have a solid senior season to make his high school career everything he dreamt it would be.
“I think high school football has lived up to everything I thought it would be, especially last year,” Clark offered. “We always dreamed about going to the playoffs and making it deep and we didn’t get to sophomore and freshman year but junior year, we got to go pretty deep, which was awesome.”
Clark’s high school career is far from over yet and he and his Wildcats are set to take the field tonight at home against Rivercrest.
“Stopping their quarterback,” Little said when asked what the key is to defeating the Rebels. “They’re spread but they’re spread to run. They like to run their quarterback. He’s a big physical kid and their offensive line is fairly big. They’ve got a big kid (Cole Carson) who’s committed to Arkansas. He’s a large human.”
Tonight’s contest is slated for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.