Bulldogs bite Booker T.

Published 8:16 pm Saturday, August 25, 2012

King’s Fork High School senior Charles Clark tries to make the turn for positive yardage against Booker T. Washington High School in the Bulldogs’ season opener at home on Friday.

By Matthew P. Hatfield

A year after failing to cash in on some opportunities against the Booker T. Washington Bookers, the King’s Fork Bulldogs were determined to begin their 2012 football campaign Friday on a high note. They accomplished that goal by holding off a late push by the visiting Bookers out of Norfolk, winning by 21-14.

It marked the first season-opening victory for King’s Fork since 2008, when they defeated Norview 29-15. That also was Joe Jones’ inaugural season as the team’s head football coach, and he’s confident that this is the school’s best team yet.

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“We’re excited to be 1-0 and get off to a good start. With a week off, we now have two weeks to prepare for the next game and go into the start of the school year with a win and some buzz going about football,” said a relieved Jones.

King’s Fork won with a ball-control offense, using several ball carriers to slowly chew up yardage and milk the clock. Ten different players amassed 255 rushing yards for King’s Fork, which had 66 carries compared to only 24 for Booker T. Washington.

At the forefront of their punishing ground game was senior Charles Clark. Committed to play college football next year in the ACC for the Virginia Tech Hokies as a defensive back, Clark rushed for 148 yards and all three of his team’s touchdowns on 23 attempts, while making eight tackles and two pass breakups on the other side of the ball.

“In my eyes, Charles Clark is the best player I’ve ever played with, and he was great tonight,” said junior quarterback Uriah Adams, who complemented Clark with 62 yards rushing on 25 carries.

On the last series of the game with Booker T. working for a tie, Clark made a hit to prevent a completion that would’ve put the Bookers in the red zone. Three plays later — on fourth down — he was one of the main players in coverage to prevent a completion.

“It was a good team effort tonight,” commented Clark, who preferred to give his teammates the bulk of the credit for the win. “Nobody can say it was just one person, and we all came together and jelled, especially our line play tonight.”

For a while, it looked like victory might not happen. King’s Fork struck first to take a 6-0 lead with 8:56 to go in the second quarter on Clark’s 7-yard run. After Booker T. tied the game later in the period, the Bulldogs drove all the way down to the 2-yard-line late in the first half and failed to get into the end zone before time ran out.

After Lavon Bradshaw made a stop on fourth down to stop the Bookers late in the fourth quarter, King’s Fork tried to put the game away but fumbled with 1:54 left to give Booker T. one more chance.

“We left a lot of things unfinished out there,” admitted Jones. “We didn’t finish some drives good offensively and made it a lot tougher on ourselves, especially in the fourth quarter. But I was really proud with how we responded after the letdown of not cashing in on points before half-time to be able to come out in the second half and put two (touchdowns) on the board quick. When we put our mind to it, we showed we can be a pretty good football team.”

King’s Fork scored on its opening possession of the third quarter, marching 55 yards. On its next series, King’s Fork continued to run the ball, aided by Booker T. muffing a couple of punts to prolong the possession.

“We knew coming out after halftime we had to turn it up,” Clark said. “I was tired, but I kept fighting because I saw my teammates fighting. We wanted to get this one.”

King’s Fork’s next test will come at home Sept. 7th, when the Bulldogs welcome Indian River. They’ll be seeking their first 2-0 start since 2007. The Bulldogs will also get back receiver and East Carolina commit Davon Grayson, who sat out the opener with an ankle injury.

“Our motto this season is to keep grinding,” said Clark.

“I want to send the seniors out on a bang,” Adams said. “We want to get into the playoffs and make King’s Fork an actual name. Going to all these different camps, you hear about all these other schools and about some of the area powerhouses. We want to be included in that talk and make a name for ourselves, and to do that, we’ve just got to keep working hard in both the weight room and on the practice field, and continue to get better.”