The 1-0 upset win over defending champion South Burlington in Tuesday’s Division I high school boys soccer playdowns extended the season for No. 13 Burlington.
But it also set the stage for a rare circumstance for starting center back Sean Clark.
The Burlington senior is also the kicker on the school’s football team, the cooperative program with South Burlington, and the SeaWolves have their own D-I quarterfinal matchup to play on Friday.
The soccer team travels to No. 5 Middlebury for a 3 p.m. contest and the SeaWolves are set for another round with host Rutland, a gridiron clash slated for kickoff at 7.
Does Clark need to pick one sport over the other? Nope — he’s all in for both.
“After my soccer game, I’ll probably drive down with my parents and put my pads on in the back seat of the car,” Clark said after Wednesday’s practice.
The location of the two playoff games and the gap between starting times create enough cushion for Clark to give new meaning to the phrase “Two-a-days.”
“I might miss a little bit of the warmups, but I think I’ll be alright,” said Clark, who played on the same day in both sports on one other occasion this season, trekking from St. Johnsbury to Middlebury on Oct. 12.
If the soccer game does not go to overtime, it should finish no later than 4:45. The drive from Middlebury to Rutland, a 32-mile jaunt down U.S. 7, would allow Clark to arrive around 5:30, perhaps 5:45, if traffic slows.
“The stars are aligned there a little bit,” SeaWolves coach Joe McDonald said. “Don’t get me wrong, I would like to be playing (home), but I’m glad that it’s going to work out.”
While athletes playing multiple sports in the same season is more common today — Champlain Valley’s Nate Godbout, for example, was the low man on the Redhawks’ title-winning golf team and is a key member of the No. 1-ranked boys soccer squad — Clark gets to pull double-duty a few hours apart in a pair of pressure-packed elimination games.
“I think it’s going to be fun and I think it’d be really cool to win both games. It will be quite the experience,” Clark said.
Clark solidifies BHS back line
In Tuesday’s triumph at South Burlington, Clark’s ability to win the aerial battle helped the Seahorses earn the clean sheet and end a seven-game winless streak.
“His performance was probably one of the best he had all year,” Burlington coach Fran Demasi said. “He won a lot of balls in the air. I think that was a big turning point for us, something we haven’t been able to do.”
Whether it’s taking goal kicks, serving up booming set pieces into the 18-yard box or unleashing long throw-ins, Clark’s valuable contributions go hand-to-hand with his leadership for a Seahorses team loaded with underclassmen.
“He takes control when he’s in there. He talks a lot and that’s something we need,” Demasi said. “He’s been a good asset for the team.”
Clark “a weapon” on kickoffs for SeaWolves
With a nudge from offensive coordinator Brennan Carney, his advisory teacher at BHS, Clark came out for spring and summer workouts. The strength of his right foot was immediately evident, McDonald said.
“He was just crushing it,” McDonald said.
Last Friday, Clark boomed a couple touchbacks to pin Rutland at its own 20-yard line in the SeaWolves’ playoff-clinching, 33-27 overtime victory. The fine-tuning on extra-points is a work in progress but McDonald, a former kicker himself, knows the value of the position.
“The kicker is an integral part of the game. Field position, it’s huge,” McDonald said. “He’s a weapon and I think he’s realizing this is something he can do at the next level.
“His ability as a soccer player translates so well into kicking. He has the perfect kicker body.”
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