Las Vegas Sun

December 17, 2014

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high school football:

Clark football back in playoffs after long drought

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Clark High football players (from left) Edwin Centeno, Benson Joseph and Cory Corral before the 2013 season.

Prep Sports Now

Getting under center

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer preview the two biggest games of the week, Desert Pines at Moapa Valley and Green Valley at Canyon Springs. Keefer also takes amusement at Brewer's yearning for the old days before spread offenses overtook the football landscape.

The Clark High football team lost a game earlier this season in the final 10 seconds to Pahrump Valley.

Last week, they arguably should have beat Mojave before losing by five points after turning the ball over late in the game and yards away from scoring the winning touchdown.

Yes, it seemed as if this Charger football season was destined to end like many others before it — without a playoff berth.

But the players never quit on their dream of being the program’s first team to play in the postseason this century, beating Cheyenne 44-20 Thursday to earn the elusive playoff berth.

“I just love these kids. Even when we hadn’t gotten it done, for the most part, they gave us a great effort,” Clark coach Don Willis said.

When Willis was hired eight years ago, he inherited a program that was literally the worst in the state. But under his watch, Clark snapped a five-year, 42-game losing streak in 2007.

And finally, in 2013, after years of being overmatched on most Friday nights, Clark will take on Desert Pines next week in the Division I-A playoffs as the No. 3 seed from the Sunset League.

“I can’t remember the last time I was this happy,” Willis said. “I guess it was when we beat Legacy to end that streak. The kids were so excited. We have been talking all year about bringing a new attitude and they delivered. It’s a great feeling for those kids.”

Clark wasn’t guaranteed a playoff spot even with a win — they needed a victory by five or more points to advance on a tie-breaker. They finished in a three-way tie for two playoff spots with Cheyenne and Pahrump, but advanced on point differential. Cheyenne earned the No. 4 seed.

Kareem Warren passed for about 300 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with Marquice Stuart and Clifton Smith for scoring strikes. Ty’rek Wells rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown, helping Clark build on its 22-14 halftime lead.

“We just bucked up in the second half and took control,” Willis said.

Being part of so many defeats created some difficult times for all involved. Not once, however, did Willis think about looking for another job. He was in it for the long haul, knowing the reward of Thursday would eventually come.

“I felt like those kids needed some direction and I felt I could give that to them,” Willis said. “I didn’t think it would take that long for us to make the playoffs. That’s for sure.”

The reward for making the playoffs is a game with previously undefeated Desert Pines, which lost for the first time Thursday.

“We are happy with where we are,” Willis said. “We would play the San Francisco 49ers to be in this position.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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