Chris Clark, Jaylin Johnson realizing potential as leaders of ASH football secondary

LaMar Gafford
Alexandria Town Talk

In 2019, Alexandria Senior High boasted one of the top secondaries in Central Louisiana.

Junior Chris Clark and sophomore Jaylin Johnson want to uphold that tradition, while writing their own story.

Clark and Johnson have emerged as Power 5 recruits and are keeping the program’s pipeline a fertile one and it will be on display Friday when ASH (6-1, 1-1 2-5A) plays at Ruston (6-1, 2-0).

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“They’re extremely talented,” Trojans coach Thomas Bachman said. “I still think they’re figuring out some of this football, but people have to understand that Chris has been playing football for a little over two years. The potential is there for him to be an even greater player than what he is. Same can be said for Jaylin, he’s just a sophomore. He’s one of the more talented kids and naturally gifted.”

ASH's Jaylin Johnson (12) goes up against a Ferriday receiver during a game held Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 at Butch Stoker Memorial Stadium.

The secondary is a young one without any senior leadership, but it proved its mettle in one of the biggest tests this season against St. Thomas More and LSU commitment Walker Howard.

The five-star quarterback threw for 319 yards, but the Trojans intercepted Howard twice in the 59-35 win.

The Trojans have allowed 90.6 passing yards per game.

“All we had to do was come together and play as one,” Clark said. “Whenever we do that, there’s probably no defensive back (group) that’s better than us in the state.”

A lot of credit goes to secondary coach Josh Mercer. The defense has not surrendered passing touchdown in five of its seven games.

“He pushes us to our limits,” Clark said. “(He has) high expectations for every drill. He always tells us to hustle and get to where we’re going – no matter if it’s to get water or a different drill.”

ASH's Chris Clark (6) celebrates a touchdown scored by John Parrish (9) who recovered a dropped Ferriday punt in the end zone during a game Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 at Butch Stoker Memorial Stadium.

“What makes them special is the fact that when you get on to them, they just embrace it,” Mercer added. “When we bend that nail as coaches, they do a good job of fixing it back up and they stay glued up.”

In February, Clark and Johnson picked up offers from Mississippi State.

“That was just a good experience to know that all your work paid off,” Clark said. “From staying out here late running gassers, it actually means something, so that is a good feeling.”

Clark is already being compared to is his cousin, Bud Clark, who is a sophomore safety at TCU.

"He’s probably one of the best defensive players we’ve had come through here in a long time," Clark said. "I feel like I can meet those expectations, but it’s just that he has big shoes to fill.”

While Clark gradually earned more playing time last season and made three tackles against Acadiana in the Class 5A state title game a year ago, Johnson did not play at all during ASH’s playoff run.

Johnson credits his progression in having to go up against ASH senior receiver and three-star recruit Theron “TJ” Johnson during practice.

Ferriday's Sharone Finister Jr. (1) gets wrapped up by ASH's Jaylin Johnson (12) during a game held Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 at Butch Stoker Memorial Stadium.

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“He pushed me to my limits and he helped me be the player I am today on defense,” Johnson said. “He really worked me out to be the player I am. It was just practicing and hustling.”

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Sitting at No. 16 in Class 5A, ASH can still move up in the rankings as it looks to return to the championship game.

“We have a special group – offense and defense,” Clark said. “If we play as one, we have a clear shot to the big stage.”