Tom C. Clark High School opened in 1978 and immediately began working toward a tradition of excellence. First Head Coach Mike Honeycutt took on the initial challenge and handed the baton to Mike Robbins in 1981. Soon the football program began to gain traction. The Cougars first trip to the playoffs in 1982 ended with a loss to heavily favored Judson, but the team declared they were “proud to have started a winning tradition.”
The playoffs became the kind of tradition Clark would thrive on throughout the ‘80s. By 1987 the Cougars started the season ranked number 10 in the state. Clark coach Steve McGhee was one of only four returning starters on that team. By the end of that season McGhee would be named to the All-State team as a tight end along with linebacker Tyler Mucho and the Cougars played for the city championship against archrival Churchill, losing 16-14.
In 1988 Clark opened the season ranked number one in the city and backed it up with early wins against Churchill and Judson. Once again the Cougars made it to the city championship, but lost to a powerful Judson team on its way to a state title.
In 1990 Clark’s dominating ground game gave way to a new high powered offense led by future All-State quarterback Josh LaRocca. LaRocca, who went on to play for Rice University and NFL Europe, led the Cougars to a 9-2-1 record along with All-State receiver Justin Still. Once again Judson stood in Clark’s path and ended the Cougars’ playoff run.
The early 90’s featured the excitement of All-State running back Wane McGarity, a future Texas Longhorn and Dallas Cowboy. Between 1990 and 1993 Clark would place eight players on All-State rosters.
In 1994, Clark, Texas was abuzz with excitement over a Cougars team that started the season ranked number four in the city and ended it in the hunt for a state championship.
Senior Chris Winnek was quoted as saying “the coaches have turned us into hit hungry headhunters.” The nickname that stuck that year, though, was the “IHOP Crew”, given by coaches who said the offensive line flattened the opposition and made pancakes out of them.
The IHOP Crew served up a 12-2 season including district, city and regional championships. Their next step, the state quarterfinals, brought the Cougars face to face with Texas’ number one team, the Austin Westlake Chaparrals and Clark’s magical run would come to an end. The ’95 and ‘96 playoff runs would also end with losses to eventual state champions – San Antonio Roosevelt and Austin Westlake.
In 1998 the San Antonio Express-News dubbed the boys in black the “Cardiac Cougars” due to five games that season that were decided in the final minutes – including a Gucci Bowl victory in the last three seconds and a double overtime win over Taft later in the season.
Clark fans had visions of the ’94 magic when the 2001 squad dominated San Antonio football, rolling to a 10-2 season. The team pursued their victories with heart and great leadership resulting in an undefeated run through district play. Their string of nine straight wins was snapped in the area playoffs by an old nemesis, Austin Westlake.
That would be the last hurrah for Coach Robbins. He retired in 2002 and longtime assistant Lloyd Alexander took the reins. Coach Alexander’s first team was young and determined to prove that Clark again belonged at the top. They showed it by making it to the 5A Division 1 regionals, losing to Judson by a touchdown.
Racing full speed through this time period was All-State running back Jerrell Wilkerson and the Clark faithful watched in amazement as he broke record after record on his way to becoming San Antonio’s all time rushing leader – a record he still holds.
In 2005, the season after Wilkerson’s record shattering career, the Cougars defied expectations and mounted a strong team performance that took them to a 9-3 record and a heartbreaking loss in the Area Finals. The 2007 playoff bound squad continued that teamwork, returning to the playoffs but exiting in the first round in a double overtime loss.
The 2008 Cougars used that razor thin playoff loss as motivation for a new chapter in Clark football. These Cougars opened the season with come from behind victories over Churchill in the 25th Gucci Bowl and then Alamo Heights after trailing 17-0 in the first half. It was the beginning of a special season as the boys in black raced to a 9-1 regular season record and a spot as the top seed from 28-5A in the Division 1 playoffs. The Alamodome became home sweet home for these Cougars as they dominated Madison in the second round and two games later on a historic day for Clark football the Cougars beat the Austin Westlake Chaparrals winning the Region 4 Championship and claiming a spot in the State Semi-Finals. Even a tough 5th round loss to Fort Bend Hightower at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin couldn’t dampen the pride among the Clark faithful.
The 2009 season set a new record for consecutive wins at 13 as the Cougars rolled through District 28 5A dominating every opponent and accomplishing a perfect 10-0 regular season. The playoffs brought challenges from Wagner, Austin Bowie and Del Rio, but it wasn’t until a rematch in the Regional Championship game against Westlake that Clark came up short. Their historic 13-1 season came to an end and they soon learned that it would be the last for Coach Alexander who announced his retirement. Standing in the wings was Coach Steve McGhee who became the first Clark graduate to lead the program.
The future for the Cougars is bright as they continue to adhere to the Clark traditions of discipline, hard work and brotherhood. As we look now to 2012 we remember that in Clark, Texas “Tradition Never Graduates”.