Jackson Clark was starring for a team he loved, and the school he grew up dreaming of playing for.
However, heading into this summer, he felt the need for a change.
An All-Merrimack Valley Conference linebacker for Central Catholic last fall, Clark transferred to his hometown Pinkerton Academy just before the 2018 football preseason started.
Now, he is a force on defense for the Astros.
“Words can’t explain how amazing this has been,” said Clark. “I loved playing for Central Catholic. But it’s been an amazing experience playing for Pinkerton.”
Toughness is a key part of the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Clark’s game.
Despite missing four games due to a knee injury, Clark has still registered 60 tackles — 19 solo and seven for a loss — a sack and a forced fumble for the season. He made eight tackles in the Division 1 semifinal victory over Salem.
“The addition of Jackson — and fellow linebacker Jake MacInnis — have given our linebacker corps stability we haven’t had in several years,” said Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly. “Jackson has done a lot for us this fall.”
CENTRAL CATHOLIC STAR
A lifelong resident of Hampstead, N.H., Clark played his youth football for the Derry Wolverines. But he didn’t dream of playing football at Pinkerton like nearly all of his friends did.
Instead, he always planned to take his talents to Central Catholic, following in the footsteps of his father, former Raider Chad Clark (CCHS class of 1993), who also grew up in Hampstead.
“My dad always told me stories about playing for Central,” said Clark. “He would tell me about playing for Coach A (now-Central head coach Chuck Adamopoulos, then an assistant). He would even show me film of his time at Central. It really made me want to play football for the Raiders.”
Jackson was promoted to the Central varsity team as a freshman, and as a sophomore and junior started for the Raiders at linebacker.
Last fall, he was an All-MVC selection. His biggest day was a 10-tackle performance in a victory over Methuen in the Division 1 North semifinals.
“Central has a great football program and I got to see a different side of football,” said Clark. “I love the team and I love coach A. We won a lot of big games, but my favorite game may have been Everett last year. Even though we lost, we kept battling, and that meant a lot.”
MOVING TO PINKERTON
As the 2017-18 school year ended, Clark began considering a move from Central to his hometown school.
“I started to feel like Central wasn’t the right place for me anymore,” he said. “I wanted to take more trade classes like electrical, because I am considering becoming an electrician. I liked that variety of classes.”
But the decision was not easy.
“Around July, I really started to think about transferring. I made the final decision in August. It was hard. I bonded with the (Central) coaches and players. I love them. I will never forget the day I turned in my pads and said goodbye to them. It was emotional. The school was great to me. But the right place for me was Pinkerton.”
Just days later, the football preseason started, and Clark was an Astro.
“Everyone was so welcoming,” said Clark. “I had played with a lot of the guys in middle school, like Gannon Fast and Aidan Conroy and Aiden Goujon. Everyone was psyched that I was back playing with them and did a lot to welcome me. Coach O’Reilly was great. He ordered me a neck roll, which I wear on the field. He has supported me a lot.”
Clark wasted no time establishing himself as a starting linebacker. He has been a key part of a defense that has allowed 13.7 points per game this season.
And Clark’s toughness a major reason why.
“I play with reckless abandon,” he said with a laugh. “When I hit someone, I want them to know I hit them. I don’t want them looking around wondering. I want to make an impact. I love to hit. Once I started playing linebacker with Jake MacInnis and Evan Wilson, we just clicked. It’s been great.”
Clark knows winning
Now-Pinkerton star linebacker Jackson Clark has seen plenty of wins during his high school football career.
Year Team Position Record Playoffs
2018 Pinkerton Starting linebacker 9-3 Lost in Division 1 title game
2017 Central Catholic Starting linebacker 10-1 Lost Division 1 North title game
2016 Central Catholic Starting linebacker 8-2 Lost Division 1 North semis
2015 Central Catholic Backup linebacker 10-2 Lost, Division 1 state title game