Playing for more than Friday night
PARIS — When Tyler Clark came to Paris to become the Eagles' head coach, he was accustomed to winning.
He had seen success at each stop, and even has a state title ring tucked away somewhere. He inherited a team of small numbers and got a late start, but one thing was certain, he didn’t just want to win - he wanted to build a program.
He brought his offense to Paris, and introduced it at each level in his first year, in 2018.
The varsity program that year went 0-10, the middle school teams were mediocre at best and the pee wee program did their best to learn and introduce the concepts and terminology that the new face of Paris football brought to town.
Clark went to the Boys Club games and worked with the coaches. He emphasized the importance of developing athletes from an early age.
“You go to any town that has sustained success and you will see they run a program from the lowest levels that feeds their program," Clark said.
In three short years, Paris is seeing significant change and success in programs at all levels.
“When I started coaching, I had no real idea," Thomas Peevy, who coaches for the Boys Club program, said. "I tried teaching things I could remember from playing in high school 20 years ago.”
Now things are different. Clark has worked with the teams to bring the concepts and terminology to the field for the young guys.
Two years ago, Paris had small numbers and took a blowout loss to Mena. This year’s fifth and sixth grade team was at a 0-0 tie with three minutes to go against the same team before the Mena quarterback broke free from a sack to get a broken play score to win the game.
“They threw things at us that I didn’t know what to call," Peevey said.
The next week, after a phone call, Clark was there at a pee wee practice to help the coaches know what to do to adapt the offensive scheme.
“Every time I reach out, I get a response," Peevy said. "If I don’t know how to block this play or whatever, he gives us help.”
Despite having only 19 players on the roster, Paris bounced back and dominated Waldron.
Peevy also implemented circuit training for the youngsters in the off-season. Almost every kid that started the program three years ago is an active contributor to the current success.
When it rains, most young programs cancel. Not Peevy. They try to practice inside the community center.
The pipeline of work is also seen in the current seventh grade team, who ran away with the game against Danville. The offense has Clark’s fingerprints all over it, which was no more evident than when a jet sweep turned into a long completed pass.
“We have some big kids, some athletes," Greg Noles, who heads up the seventh grade program, said. "They are learning to play disciplined ball, but it helps that they are familiar with the terminology when they get to us.”
The development has continued with the Paris junior high program.
For instance, freshman Maddox Watts is the quarterback. He played receiver last year, but knowing the terminology helped make a smooth transition for Watts to his new position.
The workhorse lately has been Jestin Churchman, who was the quarterback for the team in the seventh grade but now is a bruising running back with good field vision.
In the lopsided win over Danville, Churchman literally walked into the end zone untouched from about 10 yards out.
“That play did get called back, but in all honesty, he had to be worn out," junior high coach Joe Devine said. "I don’t know the exact numbers, but he really had a special night.”
The defense has also been strong for the junior Eagles, who stand at 2-1. Braxton Scott and Dalton Bowen have both been outstanding edge rushers.
The Eagles' varsity proram is coming off of a bye week and currently sits at 3-0. They will host new conference member Mayflower and look to keep momentum going.
Their work extends far beyond Friday nights.
Peevy said Blake Martines, the standout receiver for the varsity Eagles, has come over to help coach his receivers. Quarterback Chase Watts has also been around helping the offense.
Another player, Mequeil Ellingberg, ran sprints with the pee wee crew. Countless varsity players are showing up to keep the program strong.
Clark was quick to point to the work of the other coaches in the program.
“Our pee wee program using our terminology has been a huge help when it comes to kids understanding what we are trying to get done offensively and defensively," Clark said. "The seventh grade and junior high program are doing things well right now.”
Clark knows that the work can’t stop now.
“I am glad our boys are seeing the results of their hard work," he said. "The second that hard work stops is the second we stop seeing results. We’ve tried to hammer that home to our kids.”