Player Profile: Clark takes charge for Panthers in Week 1

Published 8:10 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2017

PINETOWN — Northside found itself down 18-6 at home in its season opener against Perquimans this past Friday. The Pirates had just scored early on in the final period, but junior running back Johnathan Clark didn’t intend on letting the Panthers get walked all over on their own field.

It was almost like Northside’s offense was on life support and Clark was the defibrillator. The Panthers, after being held off the scoreboard in the first half, finally scored thank to a 17-yard scamper by senior halfback Tyree Blount. It was a welcomed change after 24-plus minutes of Northside getting in its own way.

Read more: Clark, Panthers rally to win opener, 22-18

It was Clark, though, that gave the offense more than just a jolt of life. He helped completely revive it with big plays that brought home fans to their feet. Before each of his two touchdowns, Clark ripped off runs to put himself in striking distance. His most impressive play of the evening was a 47-yard pickup that saw him dart up through the middle and cut to the left to find open space along the sideline.

“It was very nice to see because we were searching. We were either tired or laying on the ground,” head coach Keith Boyd said. “We couldn’t find anything to get going, then we went to Johnathan. That kind of settled everything down. He started getting us some holes, and he started using his athletic ability.”

The Panthers have 17 seniors on the squad. But on offense, only one starter returned from their 2016 roster. Although there’s experience throughout the lineup, Northside needs last year’s role players to assume greater responsibility this season.

Clark was one of those reserve players a year ago. He showed numerous glimpses of his ability to make plays on offense and defense. It seemed that, when they went to him, things began to click.

“You get in a game like this, and he finally realized what he had to do. He did very well for us in that fourth quarter,” Boyd said.

Clark’s impact was felt on defense, too. His synergy with fellow defensive back Tanner Alligood was evident throughout the second half. Alligood’s blocking helped set up that 47-yard rush late in the game.

“I saw my wingback, Tanner Alligood, I saw him block down and I just new I needed to cut outside,” Clark said.

He returned the favor on a key defensive play as Perquimans was threatening to regain the lead. Clark had a pair of Pirate receivers covered down the field, allowing Alligood to jump the short route for a game-sealing interception that he returned nearly 50 yards.

“It’s real good. It’s amazing,” Clark said of his chemistry with Alligood. “It’s going to be a good year.”

Clark and the Panthers return to action Friday at North Duplin.