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Versatile veteran at QB for the Mavs

08/27/2016, 2:30pm PDT
By Rick Hoff

La Costa Canyon senior can run, pass and even line up occasionally at wide receiver

LCC quarterback Tanner Clark, who hopes to attend an Ivy League school, says it’s important “to be a student of the game.”

— As a high school senior planning to major in business in college, Tanner Clark will be crunching the numbers this fall.

As the starting quarterback for the La Costa Canyon football team, Clark hopes to avoid being crunched while putting up the numbers.

“We’re not going to be as big on the offensive line this year, especially compared to my sophomore year,” Clark said following a practice last week. “This year will be completely different, and I’m super excited about it. We’ll be running more of a spread offense, and I’ve been working the read-option since I was a freshman.”

As a third-year varsity starter, Clark brings experience to the line of scrimmage for Mavericks head coach Sean Sovacool, whose team was scheduled to open the season last week against Whittier La Serna.

“Tanner already has 23 games at the varsity level before his senior year,” said Sovacool, in his seventh season at LCC. “He played eight games at wide receiver as a sophomore before taking over at quarterback after our starter was injured.

“Since then, he has played so well at quarterback, he allows you to do more. He’s like having two guys on the field.”

Clark also brings a 4.2 grade point average to the table, and he is counting on his smarts to help himself and his team improve.

“We were 5-5 my sophomore year and 7-4 my junior year,” he said. “We just need to keep improving.”

The Mavericks entered the postseason last year with optimism, but those hopes were dashed by a 47-0 loss to Mission Hills in the first round.

“I don’t even remember the score,” Clark recalled. “I know we lost and we didn’t score. My takeaway from that game was that we needed to work harder.”

Clark believes he may be part of a team ready to take the next step. The Mavericks were ranked No. 7 in the Union-Tribune preseason football poll.

“We definitely have the team chemistry,” he said. “The juniors are all coming together, and the returning starters are filling in their spots.

“I think the games we lost last year were due mainly to mental mistakes. We need to focus on not making stupid penalties. We need to stay away from drive-killing, momentum-killing penalties. As a sophomore, I was the guy making some of those mistakes.”

As a multipurpose threat last season, Clark accounted for a combined 1,703 yards passing and rushing while scoring 18 touchdowns. He has beefed up his 6-foot-3 frame to 200 pounds, and it would not be much of a surprise to see Clark lined up wide again at receiver from time-to-time in 2016 as a pass-catching target when junior quarterback Jake Neufeld takes the snaps.

“Jake can step in and make plays,” said Clark, 17, the son of Russ and Julie Clark of La Costa. “And when I’m playing quarterback, I might be scrambling around a little more this year. It’s like when you see me start to scramble, follow me.”

A football player since beginning YMCA youth competition at age 5, Clark hopes to continue his gridiron career and education at an Ivy League school upon graduating from La Costa Canyon.

“I used to play lacrosse, but my focus right now is just football,” Clark said. “And if you really want to succeed, you have to be a student of the game.”

Clark and his teammates had a preseason test Aug. 19 with a scrimmage against Rancho Buena Vista.

“Tanner played well,” Sovacool said of Clark’s performance against the Longhorns. “He made some good throws, ran the offense well, and had a couple of catches as well.”

And if passing, running and catching the ball weren’t enough, Sovacool indicated he has even more plans in store for Clark.

“We’re going to have him start practicing more defense, “ the Mavs coach said. “We are desperate for depth.”

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