Clements and Oakcrest are both late bloomers

Mark Clements stars at corner.
Mark Clements stars at corner.
Posted: September 04, 2011

As his team did, Mark Clements seemed to emerge from nowhere.

Clements hardly played youth football. He wasn't one of those eighth graders who looked destined for a college scholarship.

Oakcrest football was under the radar, too. For years and years, the Falcons were nobody's idea of a Cape-Atlantic League power, much less a South Jersey power.

But it all came together for Clements and his team in 2010. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound cornerback made seven interceptions as the Falcons went 9-3 and turned their first playoff appearance since 1998 into a trip to the South Jersey Group 4 championship game.

"It was so great to see our school finally happy about football," Clements said. "Everybody was into it. It changed the whole attitude in school."

Clements comes from an athletic family. His brother John was a star at St. Joseph in Hammonton who played at New Hampshire.

Mark Clements said he nearly followed in his brother's footsteps and attended St. Joseph. But he wanted to establish his own identity at Oakcrest, and believed the Falcons were on the verge of something special.

"I wanted to be part of something new at Oakcrest," Clements said. "I knew with all the talent we had that we would be good."

As his team did, Clements seemed to burst onto the scene in 2010. The Falcons lost their opener to Holy Spirit and their finale to Cherokee in the Group 4 sectional final. In between, they went 9-1.

Clements also became known as one of the area's top players. He earned a scholarship offer from Villanova and committed to the Wildcats in the spring.

"It's such a great school," Clements said. "I got such a warm welcome from everybody when I visited there."

Oakcrest coach Chuck Smith said Clements, who also will play wide receiver this season, is a natural cornerback.

"He's got a great work ethic," Smith said. "He truly strives to be the best he can be. He's such a great corner. I'm an offensive guy, and I go at him in practice. I'd love to burn him, and I can't do it."

Smith said Clements is held in high regard by his teammates.

"We had a vote for team captains, and Mark was named on every single ballot," Smith said. "That shows you what his teammates think of him."

Clements is no secret anymore, and neither is Oakcrest. The Falcons have moved down to Group 3 this season, and should challenge Cape-Atlantic National rival Hammonton along with Delsea and others for the sectional title.

"We took a big step last year," Clements said. "Now, there's only one thing left for us to do. Now, we have to win it all."

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223,,

or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.

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