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Return of Rosemary Clarke football draws more than 60 in Pahrump

After a one-year hiatus, football is back at Rosemary Clarke Middle School, and judging by the turnout at tryouts the sport was missed.

“We had 63 kids turn out for 30 spots,” Sharks coach Dan Nagle said Tuesday night at the school. “Honestly, we figured maybe at the most 40, because we didn’t have football last year. But there isn’t a 13U team (in Pahrump youth football), and I think that inflated our numbers a little bit.”

There was a 13U team in the National Youth Sports Nevada league last year, as the Pahrump Warriors coached by Cameron Batongbacal had a solid season and reached the semifinals of the postseason. “I knew the Warriors were good so there would be some talent, but I didn’t realize how much. There is a lot of talent out here.”

There was a heavy high school flavor to the third evening of tryouts, as Pahrump Valley High School football coach Joe Clayton and current Trojans Andrew Avena, Jacob Lopez and Rance Bill were all on the field. Clayton’s son and the players’ brothers were trying out for the Rosemary Clarke team, but the connection between the middle school program and the high school program is more than familial and quite deliberate.

Nagle had been an assistant to Clayton — a former coach at Rosemary Clarke — before taking over the revived Sharks program, and he fully intends to make the transition from middle school to high school football seamless for future players.

“I have his entire playbook,” Nagle said of Clayton. “I will simplify it. I’ve got like six plays, and we’ll slowly add more plays as the season goes along. I was a freshman coach at the high school, and I had to the same thing with them.”

Clayton’s offensive philosophy is simple: grind out yards on the ground, chew up the clock and wear down the defense. But that doesn’t mean either Clayton or Nagle is looking for nothing more than behemoths up front and a smaller guy or two to run the ball between them.

“The biggest thing we’re looking for over the three days (of tryouts) is athleticism,” Nagle said.

But that’s not all that matters. Because the Sharks will be playing in a league under National Youth Sports Nevada rules, only 30 players are permitted on a roster. But because the Sharks are a middle school program, grades and eligibility matter, things that do not matter to other teams in the league.

“I’m big on character,” Nagle said. “I know most of these kids because I teach sixth grade here. I’ve seen most of these kids already.”

But Nagle did his due diligence, making sure — as much as possible — that the kids that would make the team after Tuesday’s final day of tryouts were not risky choices, academically or otherwise.

“We talk to teachers to see if anyone has struggled in the past,” he said. “Because if they make the team and then they are ineligible, that’s a spot somebody else could have had.”

Nagle was quick to say one bad decision would not ruin a player’s chance to make the team.

“If it’s a constant thing over and over, and they’re that borderline kid, they may not make it,” he said.

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