Friday Night Hero: North Rowan's Trae Clark
By Ronnie Gallagher
SPENCER - Plain and simple, it was Trae Clark's night.
There was no doubt that North Rowan was going to smash South Davidson in Friday's Yadkin Valley Conference encounter. The only question was who would make the most plays.
When the 74-0 rout was complete, all eyes turned toward Clark, a quick sophomore.
For the record, Clark scored three touchdowns and for good measure, he booted eight extra points.
That's 26 points, a great night in a basketball game for somebody like Oshon West or Michael Connor.
In football, scoring 26 points is mind-boggling.
Even more mind-boggling is that Clark isn't an offensive player. He's a strong safety.
"I was feeling good because I've never had a game like that," Clark said.
Not many defensive players have, especially the way he pulled it off.
First, there was a 50-yard interception. The ball came right too him.
"I was guarding the flats and I was there at the right time," Clark said.
North coach Joe Nixon pointed out Clark only had the quarterback to beat. Clark added, "Nobody was going to catch me."
His score and subsequent PAT gave North a 26-0 lead with 4:33 still left in the first quarter.
Touchdown No. 2 came at the beginning of the third quarter. South kicked off and Nixon was sure the Wildcats were going to squib it. So he moved regular returners Kasaun Coney and Xavier Robinson to the middle line and switched Clark to the back line.
He ended up with the ball and 75 yards later, was racing into the end zone again.
"I just followed my blockers and scored," Clark said.
Touchdown No. 3 was evidence that this was a special night. A South Davidson ballcarrier took the handoff but Clark was waiting. He simply stole the ball out of the grasp of the runner and 37 yards later, paydirt. That was the last of the 74 points.
"The ball never hit the ground," Nixon said.
"I was skating," Clark explained. "I just came in and took it. Everybody was in the middle so nobody was there to catch me."
Clark could've had another score on an interception but it was called back due to a penalty.
Running the ball for touchdowns is no surprise. Clark is a former running back. But the real story may be his kicking. North has never been known to produce many - or talented - kickers.
"I started in the seventh grade," Clark said. "I'd go home and practice some. I've got a big back yard."
He approached Nixon and said he'd like to give it a try. He's a straight-on kicker. No soccer-style boots for this strong safety.
"I wouldn't classify Trae as a kicker," Nixon said. "I'd classify him as a football player first, a kicker second."
Clark will need all of Friday's talents this week when West Montgomery comes in for a first-round playoff game. The Warriors lost to North a couple of weeks ago in overtime.
"It's going to be harder," Clark said. "We'll have to bring our 'A' game. No letups."
He knows that won't be a problem. There is a different mindset in Spencer this year under first-year coach Nixon, the main reason the Cavaliers enter the playoffs with an 8-3 record and a home game.
"It's a whole different thing," Clark said. "Our coach came up here prepared to work. We just work hard too."
Whether it's returning kicks, recovering fumbles, intercepting passes or kicking extra points, Clark proved Friday night versatility is the name of his game.