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Game of the Week: No. 4 Lovett at No. 1 Buford
Buford's Clark a key piece on defense
Buford starting defensive tackle Dequan Clark runs a play with teammates Wednesday during practice at Buford High School. Buford takes on Lovett this Friday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

 High school football previews: Week 5

Trojans back home, try for first win Friday

 Lovett at Buford

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford

Radio: 550-AM

Coaches: Lovett, Mike Muschamp; Buford, Jess Simpson

Records: Lovett (3-0, 0-0 Region 6B-AA); Buford (5-0, 0-0 6A-AA)

Key players: Lovett, WR/DB Cyrus Wilson (6-3, 175 Sr.), LB/WR Mason Marsteller (6-2, 167 Sr.), DB/RB Grant Haley (5-11, 169 So.). Buford, LB Dillon Lee (6-5, 240 Sr.), OL Vadal Alexander (6-6, 340 Sr.), RB/DB C.J. Moore (5-9, 150 Sr.).

Prediction: BUFORD. The Wolves have outscored opponents 224-14 while allowing just 522 yards of total offense through the first half of the season.

BUFORD - Dequan Clark waited patiently in his stance.

As a defensive tackle on Class AA's No. 1-ranked Buford Wolves, a team loaded with high-profile talent on both sides of the ball, Clark has somehow slipped under the radar of even the most attentive of prep football fans.

But each week, he takes the field and waits patiently in his stance.

It was in a home game against Therrell High last Friday that Clark made his presence on the field clear.

As the ball was snapped, he exploded off the line. Squeezing between two blockers, he threw one inside and came face-to-face with the ball carrier. Aiming a well-timed hit, Clark jarred the ball loose and flattened the defenseless running back for good measure.

"It was like a shotgun went off in our stadium," coach Jess Simpson said. "It was a big-time lick. I don't get wowed much, but that was one of those that wowed me."

Clark had just one word to describe the hit.

"It was awesome," he said with a satisfied grin four days later.

The hit was a clear message to all on the field and in the stands: you may not always see me, but I'm always here.

A senior, Clark is in his second season as a starter on a defense that has allowed just 14 combined points through five games in 2011.

And while his name may not be as easily recognizable on the defense as a player like Alabama commit Dillon Lee, one of the top linebacker recruits in the country, Simpson said that he is nonetheless a vital member of the team.

"For us, it starts with defense," Simpson said. "And it's a lot like baseball: you better be good up the middle. Being a defensive tackle, if he does a good job of getting a good push on the offensive line and can make plays, it just allows everybody else on our defense to be able to have success.

"It starts with our guys up front."

Mike Muschamp, coach of Lovett High, Buford's opponent tonight, has taken notice of Buford's strong play up front.

"Buford's got some great guys on the defensive line," he said. "Those guys, as well as the linebackers, give that team a strong advantage on defense."

It also starts, Clark said, with ignoring the superb players who make up the team, and focusing on the team goal.

"There aren't many teams in the nation that have the players that we have," Clark said. "Pretty much all we do is just set that aside. It's a team effort. You have to be all-in as a team."

But Clark wasn't always one of those top-notch players.

Simpson said that the improvement Clark has made both in the weight room and on the field since his freshman year has been significant.

"I don't think he was really all-in in the weight room and all that until the end of his sophomore year," Simpson said. "Then he started to have success and get a picture of what he could be if he applied himself. I think he made a conscious decision to start climbing that mountain to see how good he could be."

Clark said that he has put in "countless, countless, countless hours" to improve to where he is now.

"It's crazy to look back on it," he said. "I was just that guy that everyone was just like: ‘Is he gonna make it through? Is that kid gonna pass out?'

"I guess there's just been a lot of growing up since then. I just sat down one day and realized that this is something big here, and I want to be a part of it."

The amount of work he has put in can obviously take away from other things he could be doing.

It is easy to forget these impressive athletes are still in high school. But despite what he has missed, Clark said he wouldn't change anything.

"Are you kidding?" he said with a laugh. "Three championships? Definitely been worth it."

Now, as he nears the end of his time with Buford, the question obviously becomes whether there is more football at a higher level in his future.

Simpson said that, even though some fans or those in the media might miss Clark's production, college scouts have not.

"He's gotten a lot of looks," he said. "He's gotten some Division-I offers. He may not be on the list of the top-whatever players, but there's not a coach that has watched our tape or come through here that hasn't asked about Dequan Clark."

And the fact the he was late in totally buying into the weight training program only makes Simpson wonder how much more potential the kid has.

"I still think he has so much in him that we haven't seen that he can do," he said. "I'm really excited to watch as he continues to grow over the next five, or even 10, years."

For Clark, however, the individual attention that comes with recruiting is not the most important thing to him at the moment.

He said that he has put recruiting behind him for now, and will wait until after the season to focus on it.

"As long as we get that main goal, that five-peat," he said, "nothing else matters right now."

And while many still will not know his name when Buford kicks off against No. 4 Lovett at Tom Riden Stadium tonight, Clark will, again, be in his stance, waiting patiently to make the plays that help his team win.

"All I can do is go out there and ball out," he said with a laugh.

And will we see any more big hits?


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