Calaveras High School varsity football coach Doug Clark said the best football advice he ever received was, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The advice came from former Sonora High School football coach Dale Clifton while Clark coached Calaveras freshman football against River City High School in 2002.

“We were running a weak side dive, and it was picking up six, seven yards every time we ran it,” Clark said. “I would call other plays between it, but every time we ran that play we were getting through.”

Clifton, also known as “Old School” and by then retired from Sonora football, watched the plays from the sideline.

He tapped Clark on the shoulder and mentioned the succinct bit of advice: “The sooner you realize, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Clark understood what he meant. They ran the play 22 times in the second half and scored four times as a result.

Clark, who will begin as Calaveras High School football’s varsity coach during the 2019-20 season, said Clifton’s advice stuck with him.

“I don’t want to come in there and take this program and try and change a million things,” he said. “Of course I have my own ideas and my own things, but I’m not going in there trying to invent the wheel. I want to go with the things that are working and do things the best we can.”

Clark, 44, of Angels Camp, was head coach of the junior varsity team for the past two years. He has coached in the Calaveras football program for 18 years in multiple roles including freshman coach and varsity defensive coordinator.

He takes over the varsity position from former coach Jason Weatherby, who retired at the end of the 2018-19 season.

“It came about a year or so ago that he may be looking to retire here, so that’s how the interest began,” Clark said.

Clark is an eighth-grade English and history teacher at Toyon Middle School in Valley Springs, and has also coached in the Calaveras wrestling program for 19 years.

He graduated from Chico State in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies before starting his teaching career at Toyon Middle School in 2000.

But before he made the jump to Calaveras football, Clark had an illustrious record as a football player for Sonora High School.

“Sonora was a great experience. I would have to say that would be the main reason I got into teaching and coaching,” he said.

In his junior year, the team advanced to the section finals, he said.

But despite his Sonora roots, Clark said he would coach with the intent of maintaining Calaveras success in the Mother Lode League.

Calaveras High School came in second place in the Mother Lode League during the 2018-19 and 2017-18 seasons, and third place in the 2016-17 season.

“I just hope to continue the success and only strengthen it. I’m not going to tear apart something that’s been successful. I’m hoping to add to it.”

Many of the coaches in the league were all people he knew from his high school football days, which promoted a healthy competition between each other.

“The cool thing is that the coaches in our league, the Mother Lode League, there are some big rivalries, but we get along with one another,” he said. “It’s always hard to go back to Sonora because I have a lot of respect for the program and I still support them, but as a coach I want to win.”

Clark added that he is excited for his first team meeting with the 2019-20 squad, many of whom he knew from Toyon Middle School and his junior varsity coaching.

“It’s one of the main reasons that I wanted to go to JV the past few years. What a good opportunity to go down there, so when that switch does happen, I know them?”

Many sophomores and juniors who played varsity last year will return to the team, he said, but he declined to identify key leaders on the team yet.

“I hope of the juniors that are returning, I really hope that they step up and are ready to take on a leadership role,” he said. “The leading needs to come from the players, not the coaching staff, and the main leaders need to be those seniors.”

In the meantime, Clark will complete the wrestling season before reconvening the football team in the spring.

“It will be here before I know it,” Clark said.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.