With a new year often comes new possibilities and fresh starts. And after doing some soul-searching over the holiday season, Scotland High School varsity offensive coordinator Will Clark will spend the early part of his 2013 along with wife Katie getting acclimated to a new change of scenery.
Clark is officially set to become the new head coach of the Roanoke Rapids High School Yellow Jackets, fulfilling a lifelong dream that began during Clark’s days growing up in Scotland County.
“I always wanted to be a head coach, the guy who takes full credit for a loss and makes sure that the kids get all the credit in the world for a win,” Clark said. “I’m ready to step up and be that coach, and I’m extremely excited to get this opportunity.”
A standout SHS student athlete himself at one time, Clark was both a quarterback and second baseman for the Fighting Scots upon graduating from the school in 2001. Clark continued his quarterback career at Averett University (a NCAA division-III school based in Danville, V.A.), where he started for the Cougars during the 2001-02 season.
Following his college career, Clark enjoyed stints as a linebackers-coach for Gray's Creek High School (out of Cumberland County) and a defensive graduate assistant at University of North Carolina at Pembroke before returning to his 4-A Southeastern Conference roots.
The past five years have seen Clark man the offensive coordinator duties for both the Purnell Swett Rams and Scotland, with his three most-recent seasons coming at his former alma mater.
Over the past two seasons alone, the Fighting Scots have put together a 27-2 record which included back-to-back conference championships and a a 4-A state title in 2011. Nearly 20 offensive players under Clark have received All-Conference nods or better, including Scotland quarterbacks Kwashaun Quick and Jaylend Ratliffe (the sophomore starter for the Scots this season) who were named Southeastern Conference offensive players of the year in 2011 (Quick) and 2012 (Ratliffe).
While the accolades have piled up, to be sure, it’s been the relationships forged between Clark and his former players that has given Clark his greatest sense of accomplishment over the years. And now as a soon-to-be head coach, Clark hopes to continue that tradition once he steps foot in Yellow Jacket country.
“It will definitely be a new experience getting to know an entirely different group of kids, but I want them to know that I will do anything for them,” Clark said. “If they know that you’re there to help and stand right alongside them through it all, then they’ll want to do the same for you. You got to give your players every opportunity to succeed, and I want do that for any kid that comes along.”
Clark is set to take over for former Roanoke Rapids High School head coach of six years Russell Weinstein, who led the Yellow Jackets to their best-ever run during his tenure. Prior to the 2012 season, the Yellow Jackets had won three-consecutive Northern Carolina 2-A conference championships en route to the school’s first playoff victories in history. This past season, the Yellow Jackets went 4-7 (2-5 in the conference) and failed to reach the postseason.
Having helped develop a prolific spread-option offensive attack for the Scots (including a 35 points-per-game average in 2012), Clark hopes to incorporate some of those same “wrinkles” into the offensive schemes at Roanoke Rapids, which are also spread-based in nature. But overall, Clark foresees himself making “the least amount of changes” as possible to what’s already proven successful for the team in year’s past.
In terms of what he’s accomplished in Scotland, however, Clark has a clear idea of the mentality he wants to instill in the players he will coach in the immediate future.
“My main message to them is simply to do the right thing,” Clark said. “From making sure they’re on-time to classes and practice to treating everyone with respect, if they do these things they can go a long way on the football field and in life. Being part of a team is real-world job training that you can’t get anywhere else.”
According to Clark, one of the biggest things about the Roanoke Rapids community that he will soon join is how closely it mirrors Scotland County in many respects. From a loyal fanbase to community support, Clark sees a lot of his hometown in Roanoke Rapids (which resides on the North Carolina-Virginia border), and that has the lifelong player and coach ready to embark on the next journey of his career.
“The community support is unbelievable there, just like it is in Scotland County,” Clark said. “It’s a great place to play high school football, and I hope that one day people will look at how we do things at Roanoke the same way they do when they talk about Scotland football now.”