MOHAVE VALLEY — The Dust Devils athletic department hired Jonathan Clark on March 23 to be the head football coach for River Valley High School.
Clark, who is a native of Hamlet, N. C., held practices Monday-Thursday this week.
“Having Coach Clark take over the program will be a giant step in the right direction for River Valley,” said Dust Devils athletics director Amanda Amann by text message. “He likes to keep things simple and work from the ground up.
“Currently, he is working hard getting to know the players and coaching staff while making the move from Maricopa.”
Just three seasons after earning the state title, River Valley’s 2017 record was 3-7 overall, 2-3 in the Arizona Interscholastic Association 3A West Region, according to MaxPreps, under interim head coach Chris Starkey.
Starkey took over when David Klassen quit just hours after losing to the Bears at Coolidge High School last season.
Clark’s family, which is comprised of his wife, Lindsay, daughters Cassidy, 9, and Erika, 6; and son Nathan, 8, also will be moving to the Tri-state soon.
River Valley’s new head coach was an assistant coach for the AIA 5A conference Maricopa High School Rams for the last six seasons.
“I was a head coach at every single level, including the middle school,” Clark said. “I had three years of offensive line coaching experience.
“This year, I was the freshman head coach.”
He added that he was a member of the varsity staff, which worked with the head coach, who was “technically the offensive coordinator,” in the press box during games this season.
Clark said he was Maricopa’s varsity offensive line coach for three seasons, the JV head coach for two seasons and the freshman head coach for two seasons.
The Rams’ football program has improved under head coach Chris McDonald during the last half-decade.
“It has ascended in character more than it has in wins and losses,” Clark said. “We haven’t had a losing season since his first year there.
The 2017 Rams’ record was 6-4 overall, 2-3 in the Metro Region; the 2016 club was 5-5, 2-3; the 2015 team was 7-3, 4-2; the 2014 unit was 4-6, 3-2; and the 2013 Rams were 5-5, 2-3, according to MaxPreps.
“I was there the day before Coach McDonald was, and there were 36 kids ineligible there the very first week,” Clark said. “They had to sit two or three weeks.”
He added: “Last year, we didn’t have any ineligibility issues.
“We actually went 6-4; we actually moved up divisions about a year or so. We went from 4A to 5A.
“We still maintained that winning record — consistency.”
Clark played football at Richmond (N.C.) Senior High School, and he studied exercise and sports science at the University of North Carolina Pembroke, but he did not play college football.
“When I came in to interview it was very evident the amount of support you get from the administrative staff at the school,” said Clark about River Valley. “And it was something that on my eye way back in November when they posted the position.
“I mean when you’re two or three years from a state championship and you’re upcoming seniors know what it’s like to go to state finals and things like that, they know how to win.
“And I’m going to be honest with you, sir, when I walked in (on Tuesday), it was my first time meeting the boys and I saw the kind of size these kids had, you know, I wasn’t kind of expecting that kind of size. The kids are not quite as big as the kids from Maricopa, but they have great size and they’ve got good athleticism and the character of most of these kids is phenomenal. It just blew my head away.
“It was something that took us five years to build at Maricopa and we were still working on (it). It’s already established here and to me that’s a great selling point to me — to come in and be able to coach those types of kids.
“That opportunity is wonderful.”