0

GWINNETT GRADS: Clark closing Air Force career in style

Photo: Den Mar ServicesAsher Clark

Photo: Den Mar ServicesAsher Clark

Asher Clark and Chad Hall's careers have followed a similar path, just a few years apart.

Both were exceptional high school quarterbacks, too short to catch most major schools' recruiting attention, who shifted to running back in college. They knew each other from their days as Wesleyan students, but they never crossed paths at Air Force because Hall finished his college career in 2007, when Clark was a senior at Peachtree Ridge.

But when Hall, who has gone on to play in the NFL, left with the academy's all-purpose yards record of 4,098, he was replaced by Clark, another diminutive playmaker who grew up in Gwinnett County.

Now four games into his senior season, Clark is making Hall-like plays for Air Force. The 5-foot-8, 190-pounder has 2,866 career rushing yards, including 1,031 last season as an All-Mountain West Conference running back.

"I watched (Hall) in a couple of games out here," Clark said. "That was his time and I guess this is my time."

Clark has his team off to a 3-1 start entering today's 3:30 p.m. game, televised on NBC, against Notre Dame. He rushed for a pair of touchdowns in last weekend's 35-34, overtime thriller against rival Navy. His second score, early in the fourth quarter, put Air Force up 28-10 before host Navy rallied to force overtime.

A missed extra point in the first OT was the difference.

"It was an exciting game with a lot of ups and downs," Clark said. "We were up big and let them come back. Then you start biting your nails a little bit."

Clark is carrying a big chunk of the load in the Falcons' run-heavy offense again this season. He averages 95.5 yards per game and 9.3 per carrying, totaling 382 yards in four games.

Like other service academy students, he also is working on a valuable education. He expects to graduate in May with a degree in economics, then begins his mandatory five-year commitment to Air Force.

"My time here's definitely flown by," Clark said. "They keep you busy."

He isn't ready for his football career to end just yet, either.

"Hopefully we'll finish the rest of the season undefeated," he said, "and go to a good bowl."

FOOTBALL

Maryland trio in Atlanta today

Gwinnett grads D.J. Adams (Norcross), Tyler Cierski (Mill Creek) and Max Garcia (Norcross) return to their hometown today for Maryland's matchup with unbeaten Georgia Tech.

All three play key roles for Maryland, with Adams and Cierski getting plenty of action in goal-line and short-yardage situations and Garcia starting at left tackle.

Last week in a 28-3 win over Towson, Adams scored the Terps' first TD on 15-yard run and Cierski scored their last, a 5-yard TD reception.

Heinicke honored

Once bound for a redshirt this season, Taylor Heinicke was pressed into action for Old Dominion and hasn't disappointed.

The true freshman from Collins Hill entered in the second half of last Saturday's 48-33 victory over 20th-ranked Massachusetts and helped the Monarchs to their first Colonial Athletic Association win and first win over a ranked opponent.

He completed 8 of 11 passes for 119 yards and two TDs, earning CAA rookie of the week honors.

It was the first action of the season for Heinicke as he relieved starter Thomas DeMarco, sprained his ankle in the second half. DeMarco, a senior, has started 26 straight games.

"From the time he arrived on our campus this summer and began to work out with our guys, you began to hear this buzz about Taylor Heinicke and how well he throws the ball," ODU head coach Bobby Wilder told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "Then from the time we got him in preseason practice and he started getting reps, he was just very consistent throwing the ball, very accurate. He hit 70 percent of his passes all throughout preseason camp and our team drills.

"When he went in the game, it really was just an extension of what he'd done in practice."

Swope gets SoCon honor

Buford product Dominique Swope, a B-back for No. 1-ranked Georgia Southern, was named the Southern Conference freshman of the week Monday.

Swope had 15 rushes for 74 yards and a TD, in addition to a 12-yard TD catch, in the Eagles' 41-14 win over Elon. His two TDs were the first two GSU scores.

Teammate Michael Butler, a Shiloh grad, had seven tackles (five solos) and a pass breakup in the victory.

Quick hits

Peachtree Ridge grad Brad Roby had an interception, a pass breakup, four tackles (three solos, one for loss) last Saturday in Ohio State's 10-7 loss to Michigan State. ... Harvard's Colton Chapple, a Greater Atlanta Christian product, was 14 of 18 passing for 121 yards and a TD, in only a first half's work, in last week's 31-3 win over Lafayette.

BASKETBALL

Jack on move to 'Bama

Peachtree Ridge grad Brittany Jack has left the Samford women's basketball program, opting to join Alabama as a walk-on.

The 6-foot forward averaged 12.6 minutes and made two starts last season as a Samford freshman. She will practice with the team this season, but must sit it out because of the transfer. She will be a sophomore with three seasons of eligibility left for the 2012-13 season.

GOLF

Estep has career-best finish

Southern Miss sophomore Zach Estep, a Peachtree Ridge grad, posted the first top-five finish of his career last weekend with a tie for third at the Squire Creek Invitational in Choudrant, La.

Estep shot 70, 70 and 71, finishing at 5 under par. He has a team-best five rounds of par or better this season.

Southern Miss finished at 10 under as a team, earning its first tournament victory since 2005.

SOCCER

Hammond gets conference award

Parkview grad Marjorie Hammond, a goalkeeper at Piedmont, was named the Great South Athletic Conference player of the week Wednesday.

The sophomore had two shutouts the previous week, her seventh and eighth of the season, in conference matches. She has a 10-0-1 record this season and a GSAC-best 0.27 goals-against average, which ranks in the top 15 nationally in NCAA Division III.

Quick kicks

Grayson grad Gimel Gordon, a junior, scored in the 80th minute Wednesday to lead Georgia State's 1-0 upset over 22nd-ranked William & Mary. His second goal of the season, off a sprint down the right wing and shot to the near post, gave the Panthers their first win over a ranked opponent since beating Clemson in 2001. ... Erskine College (S.C.) goalkeeper Katie Lyle, a Peachtree Ridge grad, earned her first college shutout recently with a 2-0 blanking of St. Andrews. ... South Carolina senior Maria Petroni, a Buford grad, scored the fifth-fastest goal in Gamecock history last weekend to spark a 3-0, SEC win over Vanderbilt. She scored off a header just 2:04 into the match.

SOFTBALL

Former standouts coming to Athens on Thursday

The National Pro Fastpitch Back to School Tour, a 19-game, nationwide trek that pits NPF all-stars vs. college teams, will make its only stop in Georgia on Thursday. The 7 p.m. game in Athens features UGA against the pro team, which includes three former Gwinnett standouts.

The NPF squad features two former UGA players, Shiloh grad Megan Wiggins and North Gwinnett grad Brianna Hesson, as well as Brookwood grad Lisa Norris, the NPF pitcher of the year in 2010.

UGA's returning players for the matchup include Buford grad Ashley Razey.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.