Inside the Pioneers
Last season: 1-9
Returning starters: 19 (10 offense, 9 defense)
Returning offensive leader
Maurice Dawkins, Jr., RB/DB. 35 carries, 207 rushing yards; 20 receptions, 212 yards, 3 total TDs.
Returning defensive leader
Isaiah Jenkins, Sr., DT.
Justin Martinez, Jr., QB. The starter at the end of last year has grown up and he is the unquestioned leader of the offense. He won a couple Top QB awards at some camps and will look to show off his newly learned skills and bring some life back into the Pioneers offense. “He can throw the ball well and we’re starting to see the fruits of all of his labor,” Clark coach Jay Novak said.
He's got next
Rodney Baggett, Jr. RB. The secret weapon for Clark may not be a secret this year, as Baggett ran track to improve his speed and he doesn’t know what the word quit means. “Rodney showed us some flashes of being good this summer,” Novak said. “He has never told me that he can’t do something.”
The Times' breakdown
The mindset of Novak and company heading into 2013 is That this team will have to start on the bottom if it’s going to reach the top. Last year, the Pioneers took their lumps and some more might be on the horizon. “First we needed to teach the kids how to train and take care of their bodies, and now our second goal is to teach them how to compete,” Novak said. Clark will feature more of a mixed blend offensively because of the improving Martinez and the running trio of Maurice Dawkins, Rodney Baggett and Kensha Funches. The Pioneers also realize what lies in front of them in the tough Great Lakes Athletic Conference with successful coaches Roy Richards (Morton), Robert Robinson (Gavit) and Eric Schreiber (Hammond). The first thing they have to do in order to achieve goal No. 2 is to drastically decrease the mistakes with penalties. “We know we still have a long way to go and our biggest hurdle will be mental toughness,” Novak said. “It’s no joke when it comes to the other Hammond schools. Our schedule is gonna be a challenge every week.” Clark believes it will be up to the task, even though it has added teams like Highland and Bowman to the schedule. “A lot of guys have sacrificed to get more prepared,” Novak said. -- Paul Honeycutt