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Clark, Kennedy, soccer and prayers

By Frank Giardina

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I recently had a chance to watch one of the finest offensive line coaches in college football work at his craft. He also happens to be a native of the Kanawha Valley.

He is Shawn Clark, a 1993 George Washington graduate and currently the offensive line coach and running game coordinator at Kent State. The Golden Flashes played at Penn State Saturday in Happy Valley.

Clark was an outstanding multi-sport athlete at GW. He was a football standout and a starting post player on the Patriots basketball team that advanced to the AAA state championship game before losing 60-49 to Woodrow Wilson.

In football he went on to play at Appalachian State. Following his playing career he became a graduate assistant coach at Louisville, then went on to coach the offensive line at Eastern Kentucky from 2003-08, where he recruited Tyrone Goard from Capital. He then joined the staff of Danny Hope at Purdue from 2009-12.

Following his time at Purdue, he weighed the possibility of going into the NFL with the Detroit Lions, but he decided to stay in college football and joined the staff at Kent State.

Keep an eye on Clark's coaching career. He is carving out an excellent reputation in the profession.

  • Charleston High School staged an all-class reunion last month at a jam-packed Charleston Civic Center, with many former athletes in attendance, including basketball stars Rod Hundley, Levi Phillips, Shan Phillips, Dennis Harris and Skip Mason. Former assistant football coach Keith Pritt was also there, along with former Mountain Lions Charlie Fisher, Steve Morton and Ricky Hurt.
  • Hurt won the Kennedy Award in the fall of 1970, and members of the reunion committee asked him to bring his trophy with him so they could display it prominently in a memorabilia room that had been established.

    Hurt, however, did not bring the trophy and he explained to me why.

    "I just couldn't do it. It would not have been right for me to bring that trophy," said Hurt. "My former coach, Frank Vincent, would not have wanted me to bring it. When I won the Kennedy Award, we both said it was a team award, not an individual award. If I had brought it to the reunion and it would have been displayed like it was my award, he would not have been happy.

    "Frank Vincent had a big impact on my life and, even though he has passed away, I knew he would not have wanted me to bring it."

  • My son Jonathan is a freshman soccer player at Hurricane, so I've seen more than my normal share of high school soccer this fall. I have also seen many individual players, but there are two that stand out: Cameron Norris and Austin Ballangee of Riverside.
  • Although they have been better in recent years, the Warriors have very little soccer tradition or history. This year's team is also a little out-manned. That is why Norris and Ballangee stand out.

    Norris is a very tall, athletic looking forward who runs well and is often going against two and sometimes three defenders. He gets banged and pushed around, but he just keeps playing hard regardless of the score.

    The same is true for Ballangee, the team's keeper. He does not have the luxury of playing on a team that rarely surrenders a shot. He gets peppered with shots by the better teams in the area and he makes some incredibly athletic stops. Yes, he will give up three or four goals, but a lesser goalie might give up eight or nine. He is as good as any keeper in the state, but the stats will never show it.

    I also appreciate how hard both of them play. It is easy to look good, play hard, score goals and stop goals when the team you are on is head and shoulders better than the opposition. It is not as easy to always play that well when you are swimming upstream and your team is playing from behind.

  • Finally, I don't usually do this in this space, but I would like to ask for prayers for the longtime former basketball coach at Greenbrier East, Jerry Bradley.
  • The popular Bradley, now the school's athletic director, fell gravely ill over Labor Day weekend. He has been fighting for his life at University Hospital in Charlottesville, Va.

    Bradley is beloved by all who know him, students, former players, his fellow coaches and those of us in the media. I have known him since he graduated from Marsh Fork High School in the 1970s. Coaches all over the state are praying for Jerry Bradley. Now, I am asking you readers to do the same. We are not ready to lose him.

    Reach Frank Giardina at flg16@hotmail.com.

     


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