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Clark succeeds McClung

Soccer: Junior varsity coach replaces most successful coach in Falcon boys' history to lead two-time league champs.

September 28, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

It certainly wasn't a lack of success that drove Kiel McClung from his position as head of the Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team this summer.

The former Falcons coach guided the squad to its two finest seasons ever, winning a pair of Pacific League titles in 2009 and 2010, before coming to the conclusion that career and family obligations no longer afforded him the time for coaching at the school, according to CV Athletic Director Dave Mendoza.

That's when Mendoza and CV turned to junior varsity assistant Grant Clark to keep the winning streak going, counting on Clark's familiar presence in the program and the hopeful long-term security in the position his status as a full-time teacher at CV affords.

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"For me, it's exciting to walk into a program where it is right now," said Clark, who was hired on Sept. 12, inheriting a program that has gone 25-11-8 over the last two years and is coming off a program-best run to the CIF Southern Section Division IV quarterfinals. "We've won two Pacific League championships in a row and to be able to take over after Coach McClung, it's exciting and a little intimidating at the same time.

"I've been left with a good group of kids to watch over and to mentor."

Clark has headed the Falcons junior varsity program for the last three seasons and oversaw a 14-2-2 campaign last year that completed a dramatic turnaround from a two-win campaign in his first season as coach.

"I'm happy to announce that we've selected him as the boys' soccer coach because he has done such a great job at our school coaching JV soccer," Mendoza said. "He's a quality teacher and a quality coach and we're glad to have a full-time guy on staff heading up the soccer program."

The Falcons varsity team has 14 players eligible to return, including All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year, Pacific League MVP and All-CIF pick Pavle Atanackovic, as well as All-CIF selections Alex Berger and Salar Hajimirsadeghi.

"Most of the kids that are on the varsity, with a few exceptions, I've had on the junior varsity team at one point or another," Clark said. "I knew what I was getting myself into."

Atanackovic said most the players essentially saw McClung's resignation coming and fully supported Clark's succession.

"We were just guessing [McClung would leave] because he just got a new job promotion and it wasn't fair to us that he was going to miss practices and stuff," Atanackovic said. "Coach Clark stepping in is our best option because he's known the boys' program for a while now.

"He's always been there for all the games and all the practices with us and he knows the program."

Clark said he and McClung shared a lot of common ground in their coaching style and philosophy and forecasted a seamless transition going into the winter season.

"One of the things that made it so easy to run the JVs is that Coach McClung and I saw things very much the same way in how we wanted the kids to develop, the style of offense that we wanted to run, how the players should play in the field and the responsibility that we expected of them outside the classroom," Clark said. "My intention is to run things pretty much the same way he did."

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