With quarterback Will Carr heading the offense for a second season, Clinton has high expectations for this year, starting with tonight’s opener against Davenport North.
“We’re definitely excited,” Carr said. “There’s an energy that we haven’t had for a couple years, and it’s nice to see.”
Last season, the River Kings lost their first three games and went 3-7 overall with a first-round postseason loss.
Clinton is hoping to get off to a better start this year as it kicks off the season at 7 p.m. in the first of four games it plays this fall at Brady Street Stadium in Davenport. North went 1-8 last year, and Clinton topped the Wildcats 35-21 in Week 5 of 2011 during Mississippi Athletic Conference play.
“We know we can win, that’s for sure,” Carr said. “We can’t underestimate a team like North. Last year, we didn’t destroy. This year, we expect to win. We always expect to win. We’ve got to show up and do what we can do to come out on top and start the season off well.”
The 6-foot, 2-inch senior said he thought a season-opening win would set the right tone for the River Kings this season.
“Having a win at the beginning of the season is going to be a monumental change,” Carr said. “Last year, we had a really rough start, and that kind of set the tone for the whole season. Everyone was down on themselves. We were basically playing to not get beat, rather than playing to win. I think that’s the biggest difference this year. We’ll be big contenders in the MAC.”
Carr took over behind center last year in the first year of Clinton’s transition to a spread offense. Clinton coach Lee Camp said Carr kept improving as the season progressed.
“At first, there were all those nerves and everything; it’s your first year of varsity football,” Carr said. “I got a lot more comfortable, and then the passing game started to open up. I was more comfortable in the pocket and things went a lot more smoothly; it was easier.”
One of the key aspects of the River Kings’ new offense is the read play, where the quarterback has to read a defensive lineman and then choose one of two options.
“The read was a big change from sophomores,” Carr said. “There wasn’t even coverage-reading a lot. That read play (from last year) we built on a lot. We have more reads. It was a good learning experience. We had a whole year to get comfortable with the read, and that opens up what we can do this year.”
More is expected this season from Carr and the Clinton offense in Year 2 of the new offense after the River Kings finished seventh in scoring and eighth in total yardage last year.
“I want to make more confident decisions,” Carr said. “You can’t be hesitant. That’s where you get in trouble, when you second-guess yourself. I need to make a decision and stick with it.”
The offense seems to be ready, but Carr said the players won’t know for sure until they face a real defense. Starting against North’s defense isn’t bad for the River Kings. Last year, North allowed 30 or more points in all eight of its losses and 40 or more points in six games, including allowing 61 points twice.
“There’s nothing like the game experience; you can’t mimic it,” Carr said. “But we have some really good scout teams this year. Everyone is pushing pretty hard at practice, so that helps.”
Clinton has 10 returning starters, and they’ve shared the leadership role. Carr said he’s taken a larger role in that area than he did last year.
“I stepped up this year a little bit more,” he said. “But I’m not really a vocal leader, I try to lead with action. I’m not the only leader on the team by any means. There’s a lot of guys on the team who have stepped up and shown leadership. I think that will be a big part of our success, having a lot of good leaders.”
The receiver Carr connected with the most last season returns in 5-9 senior Cody Collender. The pair connected 19 times for 308 yards and four touchdowns.
“Cody is a good athlete,” Carr said. “As a quarterback, it’s all about getting the ball to your playmakers. Outside of football, Cody and I have always been friends, so there’s a connection there. We have a good feel for each other timing-wise.”