- Thursday, 31 October 2019
- Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
There has been no shortage of great running backs at Fayetteville and Terry Sanford High Schools, dating back to the tales of the great Nub Smith during the post-World War II era.
In modern times, names like Roger Gann, Booten Jackson, Louis Craft, Dwight Richardson and Jordan McRae were often in headlines.
But all of them never achieved the numbers that current standout Dorian Clark has.
Clark recently became the all-time rushing leader in the rich history of Fayetteville High and Terry Sanford. Through last week’s win over Douglas Byrd, Clark has rushed for 4,724 yards in his career as a Bulldog with 50 touchdowns.
This season alone he’s amassed 1,125 yards and 15 scores.
None of this came as a surprise to head coach Bruce McClelland, who saw Clark’s potential as he came up through the middle school ranks. He arrived at Terry Sanford as a freshman eager to learn and get even better.
“He’s one of those gym rat type of kids that always wanted to know what was going on and when we were working out,’’ McClelland said. “Combined with the skill set and wanting to work, you put those two together and you see the promise of him.’’
McClelland describes Clark as a downhill runner who can put his shoulder into a defender and carry two or three of them with him. “I would probably say at least half of his yards have come after contact,’’ McClelland said.
While Clark doesn’t possess sprinter’s speed, McClelland said he’s got enough to to make him an effective runner. It’s also been enough to attract the attention of colleges like Wake Forest, Wofford and Elon to name a few.
If anyone is surprised by Clark’s success, it’s Clark himself, who just came to Terry Sanford hoping he could live up to the reputation of the running backs that preceded him.
As far as his thoughts on his running style, he considers himself a disciple of the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott. “I watch him and study how he runs,’’ Clark said. “That’s my favorite football player. That’s who I feel like I run like, with toughness, the physical part of running.’’
Clark said he still wants to hit 5,000 yards for his career. With three regular season games and a near certain first-round state playoff game left, he has time to make that happen.
But he and the Bulldogs are seeking bigger prizes. “I want us to win our conference,’’ he said. “I want us to be conference champions and go undefeated (in conference play). I’m really excited about what’s going to be coming up for us and all the things we are about to do.’’
Pictured: Dorian Clark
South View athletic director Chad Barbour said Tyler Bazzle is the kind of student who brightens your day whenever you see him.
Despite being hampered by cerebral palsy that makes him non-verbal and forces him to walk with the help of a walker, Bazzle is a friendly, outgoing youngster who is beloved by his teachers and fellow students.
He also loves the Tiger football team, and Barbour came up with an idea for allowing him to experience being a part of the team firsthand.
In September, Barbour approached head coach Rodney Brewington with the idea of allowing Bazzle to put on a uniform, go on the field with the rest of the team and score a touchdown.
Brewington took the idea and in Barbour’s words, ran with it. He put together a full uniform for Bazzle, down to equipment and shoes, and gave it to him to remember the special night, which they scheduled for South View’s homecoming game with E.E. Smith.
Barbour then reached out to Smith athletic director Lawrence Smalls to clear it with him. The plan was to delay the kickoff of the game and run an unofficial play near the goal line with Bazzle carrying the football prior to the actual kickoff.
Barbour said Smalls agreed immediately, saying anything that the schools can do for kids they’re going to do.
Just to cover all bases, Barbour also spoke with Neil Buie, the regional supervisor of high school football officials for the Southeastern Athletic Officials Association and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
Buie and his officiating crew bought in, manning their usual positions on the field while the play with Bazzle was run.
The ball was handed off to Bazzle, his walker shoved to the side, as his best friend Kevin Brewington and South View star running back Matthew Pemberton helped Bazzle into the end zone for his touchdown.
Long after the game was over, Barbour said Pemberton removed his game cleats and presented them to Bazzle as another gift.
“It’s an experience I’ll never forget,’’ Barbour said.
Barbour said the whole evening was a testament to the all-inclusive athletic program that has been promoted by Vernon Aldridge, the student activities director for Cumberland County Schools.
Aldridge has been pushing the concept of Unified Sports, which tries to involve special needs students at the schools into mainstream sports. So far, special needs students in Cumberland County have been able to participate in track and field and wrestling.
This winter, plans are in place to add bowling to the list of Unified Sports the county offers.
Aldridge said he thought the special ceremony for Bazzle fit in perfectly with the county’s goal of inclusiveness. “I would love to have a unified sports in each of our sports seasons,’’ Aldridge said.
When it comes to the long-term effects of concussions in sports, there is a wide range of information published — almost on a daily basis. Unfortunately, much of the media coverage as it relates to high school sports — and particularly the sport of football — is misleading.
Recently, the Concussion Legacy Foundation introduced its new public-service announcement that compared youth football dangers to smoking. As the pre-teen football players puff on cigarettes, the voiceover says, “Tackle football is like smoking, the younger I start, the longer I’m exposed to danger.”
The “Tackle Can Wait” campaign by the foundation is an attempt to steer children under the age of 14 into flag football. Although establishing a finite age may be difficult, reducing contact at youth levels is certainly a positive. USA Football is doing just that nationally through its Football Development Model. Likewise, the 51-member state associations of the National Federation of State High School Associations have enacted limitations on contact during preseason and practice sessions.
Our concern is the term “exposed to danger.” These types of messages continue to spread unwarranted fear to parents of high school student-athletes. The “danger” refers to reports that players who incur repeated concussions can develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
A 2017 study from the Journal of American Medical Association linked CTE in the brains of deceased National Football League players. Even if this report is accurate, these are individuals who endured repeated blows to the head for 20 to 25 years BEFORE any concussion protocols were in place.
Less publicized is a study by Dr. Munro Cullum and his colleagues at the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, which is a part of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Cullum’s group studied 35 former NFL players age 50 and older who had sustained multiple concussions throughout their careers. The findings showed no significant association between the length of the individuals’ careers, the number of concussions and their cognitive function later in life.
Two studies, two different conclusions. Regardless of the outcome, however, they are not applicable to kids playing football before and during high school. There is absolutely no linkage to CTE at these levels, and the word “danger” should not be a part of the discussion.
A more applicable and significant study was also published in JAMA in 2017. In a study of about 4,000 men who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957, there was no difference in cognitive function or decline between those who played football and those who did not as they reached 65 years of age. We would assume the majority of these individuals discontinued football after high school.
With more than one million boys — and girls — playing the contact sport of football each year, severe injuries do occur from time to time, but parents should know that efforts to lessen the risk of a catastrophic injury, including head injuries, have never been stronger than they are today.
In fact, new data from the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study indicates some positive trends in concussion rates. The study, which was released in the American Academy of Pediatrics online issue of Pediatrics this week, indicated that concussion rates during football practices dropped from 5.47 to 4.44 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures between the 2013-14 and 2017-18 seasons.
In addition, repeat concussion rates across all sports declined from 0.47 to 0.28 per 10,000 exposures during the same time period.
Concussion laws are in place in every state. All NFHS sports rules books have concussion management protocols. Helmet-to-helmet hits are not allowed in football. Limits on contact in preseason and practice in football are in place in every state.
After considering all the available research, we encourage parents to let their kids play their sport of choice in high school, but we would discourage moving away from football – or any contact sport – solely based on the fear of developing CTE later in life.