Starkville's Clark has strong run in senior season

 

Starkville High School’s Rodrigues Clark celebrates after a touchdown in a victory against Jackson Murrah.

Starkville High School’s Rodrigues Clark celebrates after a touchdown in a victory against Jackson Murrah. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch

 

Scott Walters

 

 

STARKVILLE -- Senior Rodrigues Clark is aware of the legacy at the running back position at Starkville High School. 

 

For his final campaign in the black and gold, Clark wanted to help his team compete for a state championship and to etch his name in running back lore. 

 

Mission accomplished on both fronts. 

 

Clark ran for 1,262 yards and 24 touchdowns in an 11-2 season that ended in the second round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A playoffs with a loss to eventual state champion Horn Lake. 

 

For his efforts, Clark is being honored as The Dispatch's Large Schools All-Area Football Team Offensive Player of the Year. 

 

"While we didn't accomplish all of our goals, it was still a fun season," Clark said. "We had a great team. It was fun, working with these guys and having a successful season. We thought we could win the (state) championship, but it wasn't meant to be. Still, I will remember a lot of great times with these guys. It was fun playing the game and making these friendships." 

 

Clark's monster final season provided great moments after it ended, too. In addition to All-State accolades, he was chosen for the Mississippi-Alabama Shrine Classic. On Wednesday, Clark took advantage of the early National Signing Day to sign a scholarship offer with Memphis. 

 

"(Clark) had a great year," Starkville coach Chris Jones said. "He really showed a lot of leadership. Offensively, we had a strong season and he was a big part of that success. He just kept working hard and did a great job of motivating other people around him." 

 

Starkville averaged 43.5 points per game. The Yellow Jackets took flight thanks in large part to another year of development from sophomore quarterback Luke Altmyer, who threw for 1,952 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets found balance on offense with Clark accounting for slightly more than half of the team's rushing yards. 

 

"(Clark) was just such a dependable player," Starkville senior running back KJ Lawrence said. "He always led by example. It was one of those situations where when he got the ball, you were waiting on the big play." 

 

After routing Noxubee County and Oxford to start the season, Starkville earned its first signature victory with a 23-7 come-from-behind win against eventual MHSAA Class 5A State champion West Point. 

 

Starkville trailed 7-6 at halftime. Clark scored all three of his team's touchdowns. 

 

"That was a big game because we had lost to them the year before," Clark said. "The defense played great, and we knew if they kept that up, we could have a successful season. On offense, we started the season strong, but we didn't execute every game like we were capable of doing." 

 

Starkville finished second in Class 6A, Region 2. A 27-20 loss at Northwest Rankin was the big blow. It gave Northwest Rankin the region title, but it also meant Starkville wouldn't have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

 

After beating South Panola 37-7 in the first round, Starkville found the going tough at Horn Lake. The eventual state champions eliminated the Yellow Jackets with a 35-14 victory. The loss came on the heels of a state championship game appearance in 2017. 

 

"That was a tough way to end the season because we didn't play up to our capabilities," Clark said. "A lot of hard work went into the season and we came up short, so that was a disappointment. We were motivated (by finishing second in 2017) to get back there. However, we didn't do the things that we needed to do." 

 

With that season in the rear-view mirror, Clark is excited about starting anew. Fellow Starkville teammate and defensive lineman Jalil Clemons also signed with Memphis. 

 

"Everybody wants to play college ball," Clark said. "Signing day is something you think about from an early age. My coaches and teammates really helped me get to this point. Memphis has a fun offense. I look forward to having a chance to be part of that." 

 

Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott

 

Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.

 

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