McClain ‘continues to amaze’

Published 10:37 pm Saturday, September 22, 2012

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy senior running back Ryan McClain clinched the Suffolk News-Herald’s Player of the Week title this week with 236 votes after running all over Norfolk Christian on Sept. 14.


McClain accrued 126 yards on 12 carries, including three touchdowns. Though the team’s passing game was limited, he led the Saints in receiving, as well, with two receptions for 28 yards.

“I think the key was proper preparation that we performed during practice,” McClain said, “because our coach, Coach Lew Johnston, told us that if we have proper preparation, then it would prevent poor performance.”


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Fulfilling the message of this alliterative flourish proved to be crucial when Johnston decided to focus almost entirely on the running game against the Ambassadors. The coach made it clear what McClain brings to the team.

“A tremendous amount of intensity,” he said. “For only being 170 pounds, he runs like he weighs 190.”

McClain, 18, played with the Saints’ varsity team for the first time last season.

Johnston described him as strong, tough and fast, making him hard to bring down. He praised McClain’s ability to make fools out of defenders who appear to have an easy shot on him.

“He did that several times the other night,” he said. “Picked up extra yardage after the first hit, which just continues to amaze me.”

The Wing-T offense that the Saints operate is known for its complicated schemes designed to deceive opponents. McClain’s early experience on the gridiron uniquely prepared him by giving him an early education on what goes into a successful running game.

“I started in about the fifth grade (with) Pop Warner,” he said. “But I didn’t play running back (in) Pop Warner. I played tight end and just blocked, so I think me finding blocks and knowing the rules of the line makes me run through the holes quicker.”

He also serves as a defensive alternate, sometimes playing strong safety or cornerback.

McClain does not have to look far for incentive. A strong sense of responsibility to his teammates means motivation surrounds him on the field.

“I know that I have to perform (to) the best of my ability for the team,” he said.

In terms of the 2012 season, he has a definite senior, “last-chance,” perspective on things, wanting to win it all, but he also knows that this urgency hurts the team’s productivity if it ends up draining the fun out of the game.

But McClain still takes the game seriously, and colleges are starting to notice his play. Scholarship possibilities have begun presenting themselves as different schools scout him out.

“I know Hampton (University) has been looking at me, Norfolk State, and some other schools like (Virginia Commonwealth University) for a slot receiver,” McClain said. “So I’m not sure exactly where I’ll play, but I’m an all-around athlete, so I think slot or maybe a cornerback (position).”

New Player of the Week

Following are this week’s Player of the Week nominees:

  • Devin Taylor, senior slotback, King’s Fork football — He was named homecoming king during halftime Friday and then played like it in the second half, gaining a team-leading 105 yards of offense and scoring two touchdowns.
  • Summer Parker, senior forward, Lakeland field hockey — She scored five goals and had an assist in two games this week. Four goals came against Nansemond River and the fifth came with four and a half minutes remaining to beat Cox 1-0, preserving Lakeland’s unbeaten record.
  • Madison Janek, junior back, Nansemond River field hockey — She scored Nansemond River’s lone goal against undefeated Lakeland, and Lady Warriors coach Ali Mowry praises her as one of her standout players.
  • Miriam Farmer, seventh-grade hitter, First Baptist Christian volleyball — She plays for both the JV and varsity teams and recorded a run of five service points against Summit in the varsity Lady Crusaders’ best match of the season.

Vote by 7 p.m. Wednesday by sending an email with the subject “Player of the Week” to You can also vote on our Facebook page and on the SNH homepage.
Next Sunday, we’ll feature the readers’ choice in a story on the sports page.
Spread the word.