Aaron Dawson rhythmically weaved through obstacles while protecting the football Wednesday morning at Clarke's varsity practice.

Perhaps the timing came natural for the running back, also a six-time Nassau All-County drummer. He said he started playing the drums at age 4 -- or earlier, according to his father, who said Dawson banged forks on the table with musical intent as a child.

Dawson, a senior, rushed for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns last season for his Nassau Conference IV team. He is a returning All-County player and has been on varsity since getting called up for the playoffs as a freshman.

But Dawson's achievements have earned him attention from opponents, who will try to limit him on the field.

"Just go even harder, even better," Dawson said of his game plan. The 5-10, 203-pounder said he put in work in the weight room to get stronger physically, but added the offensive line's ability to open holes would determine his success.

"It's good to have big lineman because you can just hide behind them and pass the line of scrimmage. It's easier from there."

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Clarke coach John Boyle said Dawson, also a standout in winter and spring track, is an impact player on a senior-heavy team. He said Dawson's speed and toughness make him dangerous.

"He's going to have a lot of teams where the defense is geared to stopping him," Boyle said. "There's going to be plays where they might stop him and there's going to be plays where he's going to break the big one.

"We need consistency from him. If they stop him on the line of scrimmage, the next play, he's got to come right back. And he's got that in him."

Senior Phil Kandel said his job on the offensive line is tough, "but as long as we have our position set, we know Aaron can make a play out of anything."

The four-year varsity player added: "Aaron has breakaway speed and great field vision. He knows when to balance, when to cut, he's just making big plays all the time."