GUYTON — First-year South Effingham head coach Nathan Clark had some surprises in his playbook for Friday night’s Cardinal-White contest.
The culmination of 10 days of spring practice featured a large crowd, the Marching Mustangs and a variety of off-the-field attractions.
“I tried as best I could to make this fun,” Clark said. “The school, the assistant coaches and everybody did a great job of backing me. They really helped me publicize this game and try to get as many fans in the stands as we could.”
Clark’s efforts were complicated by the early arrival of his daughter, Maggie Rose.
“My wife (Mary Lee) had a baby this week,” he said. “She had some complications and they had to induce her and the baby came four weeks early.”
Fortunately, the mother and child are OK, he said.
As his players battled in a game that went down to the wire — Shemar Moore intercepted a last-second pass to preserve the White’s 29-24 victory — children scurried between a bouncy house, face-painting table, a cotton candy vender and a Kona Ice truck.
“I appreciate everybody coming out and doing their part,” Clark said. “The booster club did a tremendous job and I’m really proud of the kids and the work they’ve put in since I got here.
“They’ve totally bought in (to a new way of doing things) and we have a good senior class. I’m excited to see where they are going to go in the future.”
Clark, the former offensive coordinator at two-time defending Class AAAAAA champion Lee County, arrived at South Effingham in February. He has spent considerable time since then trying to get boys to give football a shot.
“We ended up having 41 ninth graders finish the spring, and we dressed 80 for varsity,” he said. “That’s 121 kids who got equipment, and that’s exciting. My main focus is to really build that from the ground up.”
Clark works to make sure all his players understand their importance. In this vein, he introduced each one on the middle school and freshman teams during halftime.
“I want to get them excited and get them going to know that they are the future,” Clark said. “I am really going to focus on that ninth-grade weight class and do it again the next year and the next year.
“Before I know it, we will have huge numbers out.”
Clark and his staff are trying to build immediate depth.
“Right now, I think we have a good first unit,” Clark said. “It’s going to be a struggle if we don’t use some guys both ways. I’d like ultimately to not use guys but one way but we are going to have to.”
Clark said the Mustangs are just getting started.
“We probably only got 15 percent of the offense in,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure out who the quarterbacks will be. I see a lot of good things, a lot of potential.
“Some guys stepped up tonight who surprised me.”
Clark praised his stable of running backs, mentioning Andrew Coffee by name.
“They ran the ball exceptionally well,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go throwing the ball. In time, that will grow.”
Clark surmised that splitting the team in half hindered its ability to slow the running backs.