Clark Howell never strayed from his desire, starting at about age 7, to play running back for North Hall.
Now that his chance is here, the 180-pound senior has made the most of his opportunities.
For many seasons, Howell remembers looking up to those players who stood out in the backfield over the past decade for the Trojans (5-3, 4-0 Region 7-3A).
Now, young players are probably the ones looking up to Howell, who rushed for 232 yards and four touchdowns on Oct. 30 as North Hall locked up its sixth straight playoff berth, with a 33-13 win against Gilmer. The play he remembers most from Week 9 was when he took a pitch to the sideline and went untouched for a 43-yard score before halftime, making it a 21-13 Trojans lead.
“This has always been a dream of mine, and it feels good to have a lot of responsibilities,” said Howell, who stands at 1,259 yards and 17 touchdowns with two regular season games left in 2020. “But we have a lot of great players on this team who are all working really hard together.”
And to get where Howell has in his high school career shows the benefit of tenacity.
North Hall coach David Bishop said that Howell isn’t going to capture the locker room with a motivational speech. Instead, the feature running back allows his actions do the talking.
“Clark’s a very humble player and really is all about making the team better,” said Bishop. “When it comes to the little things, you just ask and he does it. He’s an extremely coachable player.”
Howell is such a valuable resource that he’s on the field for every play, according to Bishop. The running back is also a starting outside linebacker and has a role in every facet of special teams.
“Clark’s an all-around good player,” Bishop said. “He’s very quiet and in-tune with what he’s doing. It’s rare to see Clark get too high or too low.”
Howell went down with a broken collarbone in the scrimmage against Gainesville in 2019, then returned after missing five games, only to re-injure the same area against Fannin County.
Still, he wasn’t going to let so much missed time be the end to his story.
Howell continued to work without making a lot of noise.
Then, against Lovett in the first round of the playoffs last season, Howell’s turn came to be the feature back with senior JT Fair out of action.
Howell responded better than anyone could have imagined.
Against Lovett, he rushed for 187 yards and three scores as North Hall pulled out a 24-21 win on a sloppy playing field.
Bishop said that Lovett had good outside containment, so to win that one, it would come down to moving the chains by picking up yards between the tackles.
Howell obliged by picking up the hard yards, with some big bursts to set his night apart as one to remember.
“I think we ran the blast 41 times that night,” Howell said off the top of his head.
In 2020, Howell has expanded his duties to doing a little bit of everything out of the backfield — except throwing the ball.
Howell has added fullback duties to his list of skills this season, which is a big reason why Kevin Rochester, who is better at running the ball inside, has picked up 624 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground for the Trojans.
Despite last week’s success, the 230-yard night was not Howell’s best in terms of yardage in 2020. On Oct. 3, he rushed for 260 yards and four scores as the Trojans broke a three-game losing streak to start the season and beat Chestatee 48-28.
After a bye this week, North Hall visits Cherokee Bluff (7-0, 3-0) on Nov. 13 in Flowery Branch.
Even though the playoff spot is assured for North Hall, it could still end up anywhere from No. 1-4 in the region, as it stands now.
Gainesville vs. West Forsyth
Flowery Branch vs. Madison County
Johnson vs. Greenbrier
Chestatee vs. Jefferson
Cherokee Bluff vs. Dawson County
West Hall vs. Gilmer