OCH Regional Medical Center Athlete of the Week: Clark

Rodrigues Clark
Staff Writer

In the biggest game of his lifetime last Friday night, Rodrigues Clark was going to do whatever it took to bring his team a state championship trophy.

The Starkville High School junior running back rushed for a career-high 172 yards on 29 carries and scored two touchdowns. The first eight carries of the game went for 12 yards for Clark. He bounced back in a big way with three rushes going for 92 yards and two scores helping the Jackets out to an early touchdown advantage in the first half.

In the end, his final rush will be the one he remembers the most.

On fourth and short with the game on the line, Pearl stopped Clark just short of a first down and the football was turned over on downs giving the Pirates the state championship win.

“I performed good but not good enough,” Clark said. “I felt like I was the guy this year, so in a situation like that, I could put the team on my back and make the plays we needed to make to win it all. I didn’t do enough.”

Immediately after Pearl head coach John Perry got the Gatorade bath on the opposite sidelines, he walked the length of the field to the Starkville bench. He found Clark, dejected, and embraced him with words of encouragement in what was a difficult time for the young running back.  

“He told me good game and we would be back next year,” Clark said of Perry’s words. “It was real emotional and everyone was sad after the game. All the work we put in the summer came down to that and we lost. It’s something that will make us stronger for next year.”

It was fitting that Clark got better and better as the year went on. In the past three years, Clark has had three injuries that has caused him to miss action, two of which ended his season.

This year, a strained MCL in his knee kept him out of two games. Somehow, he got stronger when he came back.

Clark finished first-team All-State by the Mississippi Association of Coaches. He rushed for 1,705 yards and 17 touchdowns for the year hitting 100 yards in all but three games.

Coach Chris Jones of Starkville wishes that on Friday night he could have utilized his talented back even more than he did. He saw the look in Clark's eyes before the game even started.

He’s excited about another go-round with his special runner.

“I thought he performed well," Jones said. "I look back on it and think I should have given him more touches. Every time he touched it he was successful. I should have done a better job of getting the ball in his hands. Hindsight is always 20-20, but I can’t wait to get one more year with him.”