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Quarterback Clark sets tone for Noxubee County football team

 

Noxubee County senior quarterback Armoni Clark (5) has thrown for 2,194 yards and 26 touchdowns this season.

Noxubee County senior quarterback Armoni Clark (5) has thrown for 2,194 yards and 26 touchdowns this season. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch

 

Adam Minichino

 

 

MACON -- Staying humble is important to Armoni Clark. 

 

The Noxubee County High School senior remembers former offensive coordinator James Patterson stressing the importance of the right attitude to the Tigers. Clark has tried to follow that example the last two season as the Tigers' quarterback. 

 

Last season, Clark split time with Maliek Stallings in a nine-win season that ended with a loss to Pontotoc in the third round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A playoffs. 

 

This season, Clark took sole possession of the quarterback position around the middle of the season after Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter moved Stallings to cornerback and wide receiver in an attempt to strengthen the entire team. 

 

"Maliek and I are close friends, so I didn't really see it as a competition," Clark said. "We came to each other to see what was best for the team." 

 

Clark won't say it, but his play has made the move work. 

 

Clark will try to continue to execute at a high level at 7 p.m. Friday when Noxubee County (9-4) plays host to Louisville (12-2) in the MHSAA Class 4A North State title game at Tiger Stadium. 

 

The winner will advance to meet the winner of the game between Poplarville and East Central at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at Ole Miss' Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. 

 

Clark was 14-for-20 for 170 yards and a touchdown (one interception) in Noxubee County's 35-30 victory against Louisville in the regular season on Oct. 6. The victory was a part of the Tigers' sixth-straight Region 4 title. 

 

Clark feels he his ability to read defenses has grown as has his accuracy and his footwork. It also helps to have weapons like running back Ja'Qualyn Smith and receivers Kyziah Pruitt and Rashad Eades -- not to mention Stallings -- with him. 

 

"That just makes my job that much easier," Clark said. "If you give them the ball, they will make something happen for you. That is why they are so special." 

 

As much as Clark tries to spread the wealth, Clark knows a lot of responsibility falls on the shoulders of a quarterback at Noxubee County. He said he hasn't tried to live up to anyone who has come before him. Instead, he said he has tried handle the pressure and do what he can do. 

 

Shorter believed Clark could do the job. He didn't hesitate earlier this month when he said Clark was playing "phenomenal" and he was a primary reason why the Tigers had started to click on offense. 

 

Clark appears to be getting even better. 

 

A year ago, Clark appeared in nine games and threw for 784 yards and 10 touchdowns (three interceptions). This season, he has played in all 13 games and is completing 61.2 percent of his passes (142-for-232) and has 2,194 yards and 26 touchdowns (six interceptions). He also had 61 carries for 107 yards and four touchdowns. 

 

Shorter credits Clark for taking care of the football and for making good reads. He said his ability to transition from the offense under Patterson, who died in March, to the system of co-offensive coordinators Teddy Young and John Sallis has been an integral reason why Noxubee County is one step away from playing for another state title. 

 

"Armoni is a laid-back guy," Shorter said. "You never know if he is rattled or not. He has the same demeanor. I can't tell if he is mad, upset, or happy. He doesn't show any emotion." 

 

Shorter said he had a vision early in the season that the Tigers should go with Clark's maturity at quarterback. He feels now Clark, who didn't play football as a sophomore, is where he would have been if he had played. 

 

The decision also bolstered Noxubee County's defense by moving Stallings to cornerback and wide receiver. 

 

"(Clark) is not going to talk much, but he is going to get the job done," Shorter said. "Everybody just feeds off him." 

 

Clark doesn't see it like that in part because he still has Patterson's words in his head. He said he never wants to think he is too much because fortunes can change quickly. That's why Clark said he will continue to heed Patterson's wishes and remain humble. 

 

Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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