Brookfield’s Clarks on field one last time
Randy Clark has coached in this game before, so the novelty of leading a group of all-star players didn’t appeal to him as much as it might to other coaches. Clark wanted to be part of the Jack Arvin Football All-Star Classic for another reason.
The longtime Brookfield head coach has an opportunity to coach one of his sons for the last time in his career on Thursday at Canfield High School, where Mahoning and Trumbull Counties square off at 7 p.m. in the 34th annual Arvin.
Randy actually coached one of his boys for the past eight years, with his older son, Joey, graduating in 2014, just before Alex became a freshman. One more time only seemed right.
“I really didn’t have to coach this game, but I did want to give it one last hurrah with my youngest son,” Randy Clark said. “That’s one of the reasons why I told (Arvin director Ron) DeJulio I would do it. It’s going to be fun, and we’re both excited. He’s always been looking forward to this.”
The player-coach relationship has been quite different for the Clarks.
Four years of working together brings with it some difficult situations, but there were significantly more ups than downs with these two. For starters, Alex rushed for just over 2,700 yards in his final two seasons as the Warriors’ running back. He scored 15 touchdowns as a senior and will soon be suiting up for the Walsh University Cavaliers.
Randy led Brookfield to a 27-13 record, including a playoff appearance and a regional semifinal berth in 2016 (losing, 27-17, to eventual state champion Kirtland) over the last four years. So, it’s been a good run for the Warriors duo, and it’s not over quite yet.
“It has its up and downs. It’s good because first off, I never missed practice because I never had to remember when to be there,” Alex joked. “He could always help me. If he’s there, I’m supposed to be there, so I didn’t have to remember. The downs are sometimes we butt heads a little bit, and it doesn’t end well. Then it goes on a little longer than it would with a normal player and coach. But it’s been more positive than negative.”
Both Randy and Alex made it clear they sincerely enjoyed working together and couldn’t have asked for much more. But, a father-son/player-coach relationship brings pressure with it.
Alex had to go above and beyond the standards of a normal player just to prove himself and also had to endure Randy’s coaching, which may have been a bit tougher for Alex than it was for other players. Randy had to make sure he was fair to all the players, but he also expected a lot from his son, who had been around the game most of his life and knew what his father wanted on a daily basis. Randy also had to keep his emotions in check when his son made a big play.
But in the end, the connection the two possess made the experience fun.
“The last four years with Alex, it’s been a breeze,” Randy said. “He loves the game. We kind of leave football at football and home at home. …
“It’s been a pleasure, and he’s been a class act about it,” he added. “I’m sure he’s heard things that he probably shouldn’t hear, and vice versa. But it’s been all good. He’s moving on to bigger and better things next year when he goes to Walsh.”
Not before one final moment in the sun.
Randy said practices for the Arvin are “laid back” and more about understanding the terminology of different schemes. Clark, who has coached in this game before and also was part of the North-South All-Star game twice in the past five years, has had help piecing it all together — and not just from his assistants.
“Most of the practice these days has been mental stuff to learn the plays and stuff like that, and I know the plays, so I’m back there telling them what to do and showing them how to run the plays,” Alex said. “Lineman catch on a lot quicker because they do similar things everywhere, but running backs, receivers and quarterbacks, they all do different things at different schools, so they caught on a little slower. But everyone is caught on by now.”
As for their last time on the field together, they said they haven’t talked about it much. They don’t want to get caught up in the emotions of it just yet. They’ll wait until Thursday night when the game — and their time as player and coach — is over.
“It’s been weird, but it hasn’t came up,” Alex said. “But it’s going to be something that I’m going to miss.”