When Douglass junior Deondre Clark heard that the state's No. 1 recruit, D.J. Ward, was moving in from Lawton, he didn't know what to expect.
Ward, a defensive end just like Clark, was a year older and a year farther along in the recruiting process of an elite prospect. Clark had concerns.
“I never would have thought we'd have another player come in that's such a high-level talent,” Clark said. “But then he's very humble. You would never think that he's the type of player he is.”
When Ward arrived, he saw something very familiar in Clark.
“It was weird at first. It was like seeing a mirror image,” Ward said. “He's laid back just like I am. He plays just like me. It was like looking at yourself.”
So, instead of having one of the best defensive ends in the state, Douglass has two — arguably the best defensive line tandem in the state in years.
They both stand 6-foot-3. Ward weighs 245 pounds, and Clark is only about 10 pounds lighter. Coach Willis Alexander, who has examined them closely this preseason, sees only slight differences in their playing styles.
Ward is slightly more explosive off the line, while Clark has a little more power. But the differences are hardly visible.
And the two have become good friends already, especially during practices, where they help each other and push each other to get better.
“We're always side-by-side, and if there's something I don't know, he helps me out to keep me up to speed,” Ward said. “And with general D-end stuff, I try to help him, tell him tips I've learned here and there, tell him what to look for.”
While their friendship came naturally, it didn't necessarily come quickly.
At first, nobody talked to him because he's so quiet,” Clark said of Ward. “When he first came, the first couple days of practice, he wasn't talking. You could tell he was a quiet person.
“But now he's a part of the family, so everybody's getting used to him.”
Once you start talking about the possibilities for a defense with two defensive ends of their caliber, you see their eyes light up with a gold-ball glimmer.
Ward has been deep into the playoffs in Class 6A at Lawton, getting taken out by the powerhouse programs in the Tulsa area.
“My first three years ended with a bitter taste in my mouth,” Ward said. “Maybe this year I can get over the hump with the guys. We're all gonna have that same motivation going forward.”
Clark tasted a championship as a freshman, but saw last season end with an embarrassing first-round upset.
“I learned how hard it is to get there,” Clark said. “It doesn't come overnight. We started it this summer and I think we'll be able to get back where we were.”
Slogan: Let Douglass be Douglass Again
It didn't work so well for John Kerry in 2004, with “Let America Be America Again,” but Clark and the Trojans would like to get back to being themselves after a sometimes challenging 2011 season. After a challenging start, the season came to a shocking end with a first-round playoff upset. Now, Douglass is ready to be Douglass again, pursuing the 4A gold ball.
Guthrie coach Rafe Watkins: “I know D.J. Ward is the top player in the state, but Clark isn't far behind him as a player. Clark is a handful. He's as good as anybody we'll face this year. He's close to 6-foot-4, 230 pounds and he runs like a deer.”
Douglass defensive ends coach Alonzo Mayes: “They're both mature young men who are learning the techniques of becoming great defensive ends. The great thing about D.J. being here, Deondre has a role model he can follow to learn the position and learn the particulars of being an elite recruit. They're both taking that leadership role and running with it. They're great leaders, great role models and great morale-builders for the rest of the team.”