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2nd chance for GW trio

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Football, like life, seldom offers second chances. Three George Washington players, though, get such an opportunity in Saturday's North-South All-Star Football Classic.

And they hope it goes better than their first chance.

A trio of Patriots gets another shot at defending Martinsburg quarterback Justin "Cookie'' Clinton when their South squad takes the turf at 7 p.m. Saturday at Laidley Field.

You could say Clinton left his mark on bewildered GW defenders during last year's Class AAA playoff semifinal game in Martinsburg, running all over the Patriots for 217 yards and a triple-A preliminary round-record six touchdowns to spark the Bulldogs to a 63-14 romp.

The following week, Martinsburg made it three titles in a row, beating Cabell Midland during the Super Six finals in Wheeling. That allowed the Bulldogs to match Charleston High (1968-70) as the only school to capture three straight AAA crowns.

"He's mostly the one we're trying to contain,'' said GW linebacker Trevon Johnson, "because he's pretty elusive in there. He's the biggest threat on their team.''

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Clinton will doubtlessly impact the North's offense Saturday, in part because he's the only true quarterback on the team's roster. Clinton will be operating in a new offense under North coach Jodi Mote (St. Marys) and his staff, but his talents figure to emerge in any attack.

In his only season as a varsity quarterback at Martinsburg, Clinton threw for 1,571 yards and 18 TDs and ran for 1,333 yards and 18 scores. He completed 61 percent of his passes and threw just seven interceptions in 14 games.

Against GW in the playoffs, Clinton was only 4 of 9 passing for 87 yards with one picked off, but then again, he really didn't need to throw much as the Bulldogs gained 344 yards on the ground.

Clinton ran for touchdowns of 35, 5, 13, 5, 1 and 40 yards in that game.

That effort gave his Kennedy Award status a shot in the arm, as he finished second in the voting as the state's top player to GW All-America running back Ryan Switzer, a North Carolina recruit. Clinton also wound up earning a first-team AAA all-state spot as an offensive utility player.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Johnson, GW's second-leading tackler during his senior season, said the Patriots learned some valuable lessons trying to corral Clinton in last year's playoffs. Perhaps those lessons will help in defending the Martinsburg QB on Saturday.

Other George Washington players suiting up for the South this week are defensive end-center Sam Plantz (6-0, 200) and linebacker-offensive lineman Jacob Whitlock (5-9, 200).

"You've got to keep him inside the pocket,'' Johnson said of Clinton. "Don't let him get outside the pocket. Keep contain on him. If you keep contain on him, he can't get outside the pocket. That's what we're trying to do.''

Johnson, who played mostly linebacker at GW, expects to split time at that position and strong safety in Saturday's game. Last year with the Patriots, Johnson was credited with 123 total tackles, including 36 solo and 81/2 for lost yardage.

He hopes Saturday's game won't be his last on the gridiron, as he plans to walk on to the squad at West Virginia as a strong safety later this year, and expects to report to preseason drills in Morgantown on Aug. 18.

For now, though, he's savoring every moment of his North-South experience, including the weeklong training camp at West Virginia State University in Institute.

"It's a great honor,'' Johnson said. "It's a dream come true. I've always wanted to play in the North-South game. It's a great thing to do - representing my team and representing my state.''

Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.

 


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