PORT NECHES —
How many players can say they played seven different positions in a single season? Port Neches-Groves senior Tim Clopton can, but that’s not the most interesting thing about how his year has gone.
Clopton is an example of what makes high school sports so great. With players still physically maturing into their senior seasons, players can legitimately surprise and jump up on the radar from nowhere. That’s Clopton in a nutshell, though he didn’t come from nowhere, he came from the JV.
“He had a great off-season,” PN-G head coach Brandon Faircloth said. “He’s just a steady guy. We’re real proud of him. He sets a good example. Someday we’ll be able to talk about Tim, especially to those juniors on the JV. We’ve had two or three every year who have come through and developed in their senior year. He adds to the club of, ‘Stick with it, keep working hard and you’ll get your shot to do something with it.’
“He’s a guy who will go across the middle. He blocks hard for you and is just a really good high school football player. If we had 10 more of him, we’d have a really good team right now. He’s just a good player. He’s been a big bright spot for us.”
Though Clopton spent his junior year on the JV squad, he could have easily been on varsity. The presence of Alan Hanks, who caught 19 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown last season, at tight end/H-back meant that Faircloth and the varsity staff would rather let Clopton get experience playing at the JV level.
Clopton said his time behind Hanks proved helpful, as he picked up advice in the process that’s helped him this season.
“I talked to Alan,” Clopton said. “I asked him how to keep my mind right and he helped me a lot in how to get in good position to block. He was there for me and that’s not surprising because we’re pretty good friends.”
What made Clopton’s success even more surprising is that he was asked to move positions once again during the spring, going from tight end to the H-back role that he’s thrived in at times this season.
“It’s been exciting,” Clopton said. “I just try to do whatever the coaches need me to do and to help the team. A new position is fun, getting to do something new each week. It’s fun and I like it a lot.”
That’s when the moving pieces started up. Clopton started the season as the tight end/H-back in the offense, but because of injuries was forced to jump out to play receiver. He started at both slot and outside receiver at times and have played some running back too.
Oh, and he’s also the team’s quarterback in short yardage situations.
“He’s had to change positions multiple times,” Faircloth said. “He’s played fullback, tight end, slot receiver and outside receiver this year and he plays running back. He plays four or five offensive spots for us. Two or three of those are spots he would have played anyway and two or three are because we have to. He’s real versatile. He can run and catch. He’s got good speed. He’s smart. He’s got to play running back. He’s our short yardage guy, when we directly snap it to him.”
One thing that is sure about Clopton is he’s a heck of a pass catcher. Sure-handed, Clopton has led 20-4A at times this year in receptions and now has 25 catches for 301 yards and five TDs.
“He’s just a guy who scores touchdowns,” Faircloth said. “Every week he finds the end zone somehow. He’s done great (at receiver). We really didn’t know how he’d do, but he’s a natural. He’s a really good athlete, so he can go do those things. He’s got great hands and runs really well. You want to play him at receiver, but you also want to play him at other spots. Game plans are tough, because you want to get him the ball in different ways.”
Clopton’s transition out there hasn’t been too surprising to him, as he’s enjoyed playing receiver the most of all the spots he’s rotated through this year.
“I’ve always liked receiver the most,” Clopton said. “That’s what I played my freshman year. For them to move me there, I was happy. I enjoyed it a lot.”
Clopton has also shown a nose for the end zone this season. He’s developed into quarterback A.J. Smith’s favorite target, often catching passes as the second or third option on a play after Smith checks down to him. He also can slip through coverage for a wide-open TD, like he did on a reverse pass from Jeremiah Rose against Central, strolling into the end zone with nary a defender within 15 yards.
“Me and A.J. threw during the summer,” Clopton said. “We knew we had pretty good chemistry. Playing 7-on-7 helped a lot, and I think that’s where we built trust that he could throw it to me and I’d catch it. That always helps in the summer to work with your teammates and get some chemistry.”
Though the remainder of his season is up in the air after he was banged up against Vidor, Clopton has enjoyed his time this year, even if he’s played a bigger role than he expected coming into the season.
“I didn’t expect this at all,” Clopton said. “I played tight end last year, so I had to move to a totally new position in the spring. I was excited for the opportunity and just tried to make the most of it. Scoring in Mid-County Madness was pretty cool. Growing up here, it’s always been a dream to play in front of both cities. It was cool to score in front of everyone. That was definitely my favorite part of my senior year.”
INDIAN INKLINGS: The son of Carla and Scott Clopton, Tim said he’d like to go to Lamar after he graduates and is interested in a career in coaching. … The 578 yards PN-G gave up last week to Vidor was the most the Indians have allowed on the ground in over 20 years and possibly longer. Going back to 1990, the most rushing yards PN-G had allowed previously in a game was 474 yards to Livingston in 2010. The Indians have only given up 400 or more yards four times since ’90. The 578 yards was the most PN-G had given up to Vidor since the Pirates rushed for 412 yards in 1994. … Linebacker Dillard Youngblood, still hobbled by an injury he suffered against LC-M, had a team-high 16 tackles against Vidor. Teammate Robert Dawson had 14. Youngblood’s 16 were the most tackles in a single game by an Indians defender all season. … PN-G will host its homecoming festivities this week against Beaumont Ozen. It will also be Senior Night, honoring all the senior football players on the team.
Five Questions with Tim Clopton
What’s your favorite college team? University of Texas
What’s your favorite NFL team? Dallas Cowboys
What’s your favorite movie? The Longest Yard
Future city you’d like to live in: Port Neches
If you could play another sport, what would it be? Basketball