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Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Every football player wants to be on a team that wins a state championship.
Jacob Clark got that chance.
Clark watched from the sideline as a freshman and sophomore as Regina extended its state-record title streak to six in a row with 1A titles in 2014 and 2015.
It was seeing Regina lose a state title game the next season that made Clark want to play football again.
Clark walked away from football before last season with the plan of focusing his efforts on basketball.
His plan was working until Regina fell to Western Christian 47-34 in the 1A title game. The loss hit a chord with Clark who wondered if he could have helped.
“I didn’t know if I could have done anything but I wanted to do my part,” Clark said. “I wanted to do what I could for these guys.”
Clark was true to his word, returning to football this fall after a year away from the sport.
On Friday the senior offensive lineman will get a shot at the goal that brought him back when No. 4 Regina (10-2) and second-ranked Van Meter (12-0) meet in the 1A title game at 11 a.m. at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
“I said (last year) I am going to do everything I can to try to help my guys this year,” Clark said. “I wanted to be a part of this, I wanted to see if we could get to the Dome and win it.”
Clark spent his freshman and sophomore seasons on the scout team helping prepare his teammates that led Regina to a 26-2 record and state titles in each of those two seasons.
After two years filled with battling teammates in practice and watching games from the sideline Clark was ready to shift his full attention to hoops.
“My freshman and sophomore year I played against the state champions, I was getting beat up, I was on the scout team and if I’m being honest I wasn’t enjoying it,” Clark said. “So, I said I’m going to focus on basketball my junior year.”
Clark spent a full year away from football but when the Regals lost in last year’s title game he wasn’t about to be left with ‘what ifs’ in his senior season.
It didn’t take Clark long to make an impact in his return, making his first career start in the season opener.
“We threw him to the fire because here is a guy that hadn’t played in a year and we play Solon and Xavier week one and two,” Regina coach Marv Cook said. “He competed every single snap and did a really good job for us.”
Clark moved around on the offensive line as Regina plugged players into different spots.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Clark found a home at right tackle where he made his first ever semifinal start last week.
“He’s been amazing,” Cook said. “One he’s a great kid, a great young man, a phenomenal student and a great football player. He really has come in and solidified our offensive line.”
Clark admits there was an adjustment period.
Not only had he been away from football for a year but was experiencing varsity action for the first time.
Clark credits offensive line coach Alex Kanellis for getting him up to speed and for preparing him for his senior season five years ago in junior high.
“For the most part it’s like riding a bike,” Clark said. “Kanellis has coached me since eighth grade and he’s drilled the blocking scheme into my head. I don’t know if I will ever forget it honestly.”
The addition of Clark up front has helped Regina average 197 rushing yards per game.
Regina has averaged 190 rushing yards and 5.0 yards per carry in three playoff wins.
“You can watch him on the basketball court and see that he is athletic,” Cooks aid. “From day one at camp you can tell he is always working his technique and drill work with coach Kanellis and he has gotten better every single time out.”
Clark and his teammates on the offensive line will face their toughest test of the postseason on Friday against undefeated Van Meter.
The Bulldogs are holding opponents to 6.3 points and 87 rushing yards per game.
Clark is looking forward to the challenge that the Van Meter defense poses and the reward that comes with a win.
“To be honest I didn’t think I was going to start this year, I didn’t think I was going to play much at all, to be able to start, to be able to contribute the way that I wanted to this year it’s amazing,” Clark said. “The fact that we get the chance to fight for a championship again for the eighth straight time it’s a dream come true.”