Marion vs. JTR tonight
Patriots look to rebound as they host tough Senators squad
Marion School District While not generally regarded as being overly glamorous or flashy, a blue-collar football player is generally still an effective one.
In Lance Clark's case, he strives for his Marion Patriots to embrace that hardhat philosophy.
“We have to be blue-collar and tough. That's how this football team is going to be successful this year,” said Clark. “Look, we got punched in the mouth last week (58-7 loss at Bryant). We all did. When you get punched, you can keep taking punches, or you can respond.”
Part of Clark's response this week has been shuffling the deck on defense.
You should expect to see more even fronts (four
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defensive linemen) rather than Clark's signature multiple 3-4 scheme when Marion (1-1 overall) hosts Class 4A power Joe T.
Robinson (1-1) this Friday night at Premier Bank Stadium.
“In this game, you are ultimately what you produce,” said Clark. “If you run a 4.2 40-yard dash, but you're in the training room you run a 00.00 40. The best hands in America do not matter if you don't know the plays and we can't get you the ball. It doesn't matter what my resume says if we can't produce on Friday night.
We don't make any excuses as far as the Bryant game and we won't make any this week.”
Clark will lean more on defensive linemen Johnny Nichols, Kyjuan Rodgers, Jeremiah Nichols, Trent Knighten, and Timarion Smith moving forward.
Most of the tackles will rotate at tight end and fullback on offense. Look for junior receiver Donnie Cheers Jr., to play several snaps at weak cornerback opposite Columbus London.
The linebacker combination will look different with Donte Moore and Brian Weatherspoon shifting from outside 'backer to middle linebacker. Junior Carter Waldo migrates from linebacker to star (hybrid linebacker/defensive back). Sophomore Martavian Banks will earn his first high school start this week at free safety.
Donavan Brewer and Jakobe Smith compete this week at strong safety.
“We are looking to create more life and action both ways,” said Clark. “My job as a coach and our job as a staff is to put guys into the correct spots. If a guy is struggling to tackle at mike linebacker, he may be a great tackler at safety because his vision changes.”
Robinson and Marion's first two games mirror each other right down to the identical 1-1 records. Each school lost a lopsided decision to a defending state champion as Class 5A kingpin Pulaski Academy dealt Robinson a 60-21 defeat Week 0. The Senators erased a 20-point, fourth-quarter deficit in last week's 47-44 conquest of Class 5A Maumelle.
Marion won an emotional game Week 0, 24-21, against Wynne before the
Photo by Londa Hamrick PATRIOTS (cont.)
Bryant loss last week.
“Joe T. did the gritty, bluecollar things last week to beat Maumelle and that's impressive,” said Clark.
“This is a fast, physical, mentally tough team.”
The Senators advanced to consecutive Class 4A title games in 2018 and 2019, earning the state title two years ago. Robinson has earned four consecutive 74A conference titles.
“This is a confident football team, and they should be,” said Clark. “They've won a lot of games the last six or seven years. They beat us last year pretty soundly, so they probably expect to win this game.
They have a ton of moxie and toughness.”
Robinson is anchored by four-year starting linemen E'marion Harris (6-6, 340), who committed in the spring to Arkansas, and Eli Jackson (6-2, 265). The Senators have rotated two quarterbacks through two weeks and senior tailback Daryl Searcy owns scholarship offers from Arkansas State, Memphis, and Texas State.
Kickoff Friday night at Premier Bank Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. The contest will be streamed live on marionpatriots.com. The Joe T. Robinson game will also be youth football night meaning that any youth player who participates in AAU football or plays for MYSA can attend the game for free if they wear their team jersey.
Students should wear jerseys for the Robinson game.