One of the Clippers' games will be televised.
By JOHN BUTERA
COLUMBIANA -- Like many high school football players in the area, Columbiana's Derek Garrod is sporting a tattoo.
Unlike many, however, Garrod is also sporting a target, and the Tri-County League's top player has to know it's there.
"I personally don't think I have one," Garrod said of the target. "But Coach [Bob Spaite] thinks I do. They'll be gunning for me, but they have been before."
And with good reason.
Last year, the talented 5-foot-9, 175-pound quarterback rushed for 1,630 yards, shattering Jeff Johnston's school mark by over 300 yards. Garrod also tallied a school-standard 311 yards in one game.
There's more: Those figures added up to an incredible 10.2 yards-per-carry average to go with 20 touchdowns and a per-game average of 163 yards.
Tack on his 653 passing yards and seven touchdowns through the air, and you've got statistics some players would be happy to accumulate for a career.
For good measure last year, Garrod also delighted Clippers fans with a 92-yard run.
"He's a big play-maker," Leetonia coach Artie Altomare said, "and he's capable of doing it at any time. What makes him even more impressive is his size. I've seen him since last year, and he's really been at it with the weights. That added padding is sure to help him to take the hits with the option that they run."
Spaite is quick to acknowledge the target Garrod carries with him.
"I'm sure of it," the coach said. "In fact, I think the whole team does [have one]. There's no doubt in my mind."
The reason could be the Clippers' depth, Altomare said.
"Just when you think you can stop Garrod, they throw J.P. Jenkins at you," Altomare said. "He could be the second-fastest kid in the league."
Regarding all the preseason hype, Garrod said, "You have to stay down to earth. You can't let this go to your head. As a third-year player, I know not to get hung up on things, including one play or one game. Sure, it's nice to be recognized as a person, but I want to put a run together and be recognized as a champion."
Garrod eyes tough games against East Palestine, Crestview and Leetonia.
"And then there's the chance of someone else sneaking in, too," he said.
Spaite said, "East Palestine certainly presents us some problems. As a coach, that's the most stressful game. Crestview and Leetonia beat us last year and will be ready again."
New press box: Not only will one of Columbiana's games be televised, but the Clippers also will be playing in front of a new $90,000, 10-room press box.
"That press box is a pretty amazing testimony to a group of people in this community who are committed to doing things first class," Spaite said.
Led by the effort of Dr. Ron Detwiler, the press box was done in record time and represents countless hours of work by Columbiana-area contractors, including Lee Lipply.