As the season progressed last year for Ethel coach Adam Smith, it became more and more apparent that Anton Clark needed to get the ball more.
Clark had a solid season for the Tigers, rushing for 478 yards on 81 carries, which was third on the team.
Smith said he had to make an effort to get Clark the ball more last year.
“He had a decent year on offense,” Smith said. “Like I said early in the year I was having issues. I wasn’t getting him the ball enough. I was just kind of getting the flow of play calling and wasn’t really. We were moving the ball, so I really didn’t think about it a whole lot until I saw the actual numbers on paper, and I started telling myself, ‘We’ve got to get this kid more involved in the run game because he’s our best athlete.’ We’ve got to get the ball in his hands.”
That’s when Smith started moving Clark around and finding different ways to get him the ball.
“As the year went on, we tweaked our offense and made some small changes and got him the ball some more,” Smith said. “And he showed out a little bit in the middle and toward the end of the year. He was one of our guys if we need a first down or touchdown, he was definitely going to be in the mix to be the guy carrying the ball because he did such a good job for us and we had that much faith in him to count on him in those tough situations.”
While Clark had to share carries with Cyrus Rone and Marcus Jones, Smith said he could see Clark having a big season this year in Ethel’s run-heavy offense.
“I think he wound up with around 500-600 yards last year rushing,” Smith said. "I definitely want to push that as close to 1,000 as we can, and I think if he would have had the opportunity carry wise I think he would have got really close. Cyrus had about 1,000 last year so they are both going to have to step up and pick up that slack in our offense as far as yardage and production goes.”
Clark said he knows he needs to step up this season for the Tigers.
“This year I’m just here to fill in the shoes of the seniors that left - they were great seniors,” Clark said. “I’m going to try to do the best I can on the defensive end and on the offensive end. I thought I had a pretty solid year. I had some great games and some bad games. Even in the bad games, I had my teammates to uplift me and get me back up.”
While Clark will have a bigger offensive role, Smith said he will expect more on defense from the senior.
“He’s definitely this year going to be our guy on defense,” Smith said. “He was kind of a second fiddle guy to Cyrus Rome last year on defense. They were outside linebackers so they kind of keep everything contained within the box and Anton is going to have a little bit bigger role this year being the senior and being at that position. That is kind of the lynchpin of our defense. Not letting people get outside of us because we are not terribly fast in the first place. He’s done a good job. This is going on year three for me and he’s done a solid job both years I’ve been here so far. He’s a solid guy so we’re looking forward to what he can do this year.”
Smith said Clark is a solid tackler and a physical specimen and thinks he can play at the next level.
“I honestly think his best side and probably next level would be on the defensive side of the ball — outside linebacker,” Smith said. “He’s kind of a hybrid safety type. That’s what he plays for us. If we ever want to go to a two high situation on defense, he rolls back to our strong safety. He had a few interceptions in some big-time moments for us in district play, so I think defense is his most skilled side of the ball.”
Smith said Clark is a solid student and has picked up his work ethic in the school building.
“He is a solid student,” Smith said. “He kind of slacked off ninth and tenth grade year not terrible, but enough where you could notice it. This year, he had a really solid year in the classroom. He’s kind of decided that he wants to be a good student and you heard him talking about keeping his cousin out of trouble. He makes it a point to stay out of situations that are going to make him look a certain way or get him into any kind of trouble. He’s very intelligent on that end of staying out of trouble and being in the right places and around the right folks and I’m extremely proud of him for that.”
Clark also plays basketball, runs track and was on the powerlifting team where he finished third in the state in his weight class. In track, he won the 200-meter dash in the district track meet.