WHEELERSBURG — It was Josh Clark’s chance to show the entire state what Wheelersburg —and even most if not all of Southeastern Ohio football —already long knew.
Clark, quite frankly, came through —as evidenced by the hardware he took back home from up north.
That’s because Clark, the two-time all-Ohio Division V Pirate defensive back, captured Defensive Most Valuable Player honors —as part of the recent and annual Ohio High School Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Classic.
Clark, with Wheelersburg being a Division V football program, was part of the smaller-schools divisions game —which features players in Divisions IV, V, VI and VII.
Clark’s South squad shut out the North 13-0 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon, as Clark claimed two interceptions as part of that two-touchdown blanking.
One pick was in the first half and the other was in the second, as the six-foot one-inch and 175-pound Clark discussed the game —and his entire experience.
“Practices were fun, the game was fun, it was a great experience. I recommend it to anyone who gets a chance to play in that game. Lots of coaches there, and it’s a great chance to get your name out there if you want to go play college ball,” he said.
He was the 14th all-time Pirate to be selected, via an annual OHSFCA process —and the 12th Pirate picked since the 2000 season, and the 11th since 2010.
Matt Williams and Rich Gill, off Ed Miller’s state championship club in 1989, were the first two all-time Pirates to be chosen.
Makya Matthews was selected from Wheelersburg to play in the 2020 contest —but that was unfortunately canceled because of the coronavirus threat.
The cornerback Clark said there were set rules, such as the defense only permitted to play man-to-man coverage — and seven yards off from receivers.
The secondaries could, conversely, play press coverage at any time.
Thus, there were no zone packages, but Clark came up with two interceptions anyway.
“During the season, I could study the receivers and the quarterbacks, and I know some of the routes they run and their combinations. This game, it was just straight man (coverage),” he said.
Clark’s coming-along in his junior and senior seasons was in line with Wheelersburg’s growth both years —as the senior overcame injury in the Pirates’ season opener at Ironton to completely lock down Waverly’s Will Futhey in the de facto Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship game in October.
In the Pirates’ nine-game coronavirus-shortened season of 2020, Clark came up with 20 solo tackles and two assisted — plus 17 pass breakups, five interceptions and one forced fumble.
Through their 10 regular-season games last fall, Clark collected 20 total tackles, made one pick, and broke up 11 passes.
Wheelersburg won the SOC II outright last season, and upstaged Ironton en route to Division V Region 19 runner-up.
Clark, an all-Southeast District Division V first-teamer twice, climbed the ladder from third-team all-Ohio defensive back as a sophomore to second-team all-state DB as a senior.
“I did really well my junior year despite COVID and everything, and I think going far in the playoffs my senior year helped me get my name out there,” revealed Clark.
Clark quickly became a household name not too long into his junior campaign.
“Josh showed the rest of the state why he was so valuable to us, and why he was such a headache on opposing quarterbacks and receivers. We have a lot of defensive packages, and you could always see he was well-prepared and ready to go to battle and play at a high level,” said Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward. “Very proud of Josh for getting this opportunity and showcasing what he can do.”
What Clark plans to do now is attend Ohio University, where Futhey recently committed to, and attempt to walk on for the Bobcats.
Eventually, maybe the Mid-American Conference can find out for itself what Wheelersburg fans and observers already know.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved