FORTVILLE — Timmy Clone wisecracks about it now, more than a month removed from his final career boys soccer game at Mt. Vernon High School.

While his official title with the Marauders the past two seasons was team captain, the senior quips, it was more accurately “coach’s son” and most everyone reminded him.

As the stepson of Marauders’ head coach Matt Mayhew, Clone has become an expert at handling good-natured teasing, absorbing a litany of verbal jabs and jokes at his family tree’s expense.

“It was a blessing and a curse really. Everyone would say, ‘I was starting because I was the coach’s son,’ and ‘oh, he’s playing favorites,’ so I felt I kind of had to prove myself,” Clone remarked. “It motivated me. I had to show I was on the field for a reason.”

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For onlookers that saw beyond the father-son relationship, there was no question why Clone was at the varsity level, logging heavy minutes the past three years. The starting forward was a game changer and a catalyst for a program that went 39-13-1 the past three seasons.

The numbers speak loudly and so did his unselfish talent, which is why he was chosen as the 2017 All-Hancock County Player of the Year in boys soccer as voted upon by the coaches and the Daily Reporter.

“You could tell at an early age it was something he liked to do,” Mayhew said while reflecting on his son’s career. “You could tell it was something he was good at. He was just a natural out on the field.

“I know he was getting that ‘coach’s son’ name, but anyone who knows anything about soccer could watch two minutes of a game and notice he’s not out there because he’s my son.”

As a child, Clone started playing soccer for his mom, Lisa Mayhew, first, who coached his youth soccer team through the Mt. Vernon Optimist Sports program when he was 3.

Clone’s older brother, Bob, paved the way, playing up through the youth leagues and at Mt. Vernon, four years ahead of Timmy. Matt Mayhew, who married Lisa when Timmy was 2 and Bob was 5, didn’t start instructing the youngest of the two boys until he was 8, when he began playing club soccer at Sporting Indiana.

Yet, the favoritism assumption always was there, which Clone didn’t mind. Much like the ‘Ls’ he received while working to beat Bob on the field, he became better from it.

“Every loss is a lesson,” Clone said.

By his senior year, Clone carried a PhD in winning. Named a unanimous All-Hoosier Heritage Conference selection, Clone also earned Indiana Soccer Coaches Association All-District second team honors.

Off the field, he was ISCA Academic All-State with a 3.78 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society. Ingrained with drive to give back, he’s been a Mt. Vernon senior representative for Hancock County’s Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse program and an officer with Best Buddies.

His on-field play mirrors his character 34 goals and 25 assists the past four years. This season, Clone reached 10 goals for a second straight campaign, while dishing out 11 assists.

His career goal total ranks him sixth all time in program history, and his career assists are third best overall.

“For him to finish third is pretty neat. You know he wasn’t just out there looking for his own. To distribute the ball like he did was amazing. I told him before, it’s nice to score but it’s just as nice to get an assist. That’s kind of how he built his career,” Mayhew said. “If he saw his own and he could get it, that’s fine, but he was also willing to distribute the ball. It made him a more rounded player.”

It revealed his leadership instincts, a skill he picked up as a youth at Sporting Indiana when he played up an age group for more than five years until he was 14.

“I took a lot of Ls, and I think you take more from a loss than a win,” Clone said. “I learned how to be tougher, think faster, play faster and be able to compete at a higher level.”

His past experiences spun full circle this fall as the Marauders faced the graduation of nine starters and 10 players from last year’s outright HHC championship roster.

Picking up the torch left behind by the team’s former senior leaders like Josh Powell, Clone mentored and led a large group of sophomores and juniors into a season filled with unknowns.

“In my senior year, I stepped up to be more of a leader. This year, it was more about developing the younger kids,” Clone said. “It was frustrating sometimes, but I like to teach people, and I like to see when they get it.”

The revamped Marauders hardly misfired, opening the season 7-0 and running their conference record to 6-0 for 17 straight HHC wins, an unofficial league record for most wins by a school in boys soccer.

A knee injury, however, slowed Clone midway through the season after a hard hit during the Marauders’ 3-0 regular-season victory against rival Greenfield-Central on Sept. 7.

Clone missed four matches — except for HHC contests — but was never the same, he admits.

“When I came back, I felt out of shape, so I kind of had to play more of a target, instead of a true nine,” Clone said. “I had to have people run off of me instead of coming back and checking. We just needed more communication because you can’t see behind you. I needed more help from my teammates.”

For the reminder of the season, Clone focused more on developing plays and less on attacking, taking pride in playing through balls into the zone as the assist man before the assist.

“He draws a crowd,” Mayhew said. “Really, just having him on the field, even at less than 100 percent, is valuable.”

Mt. Vernon end the season with a 10-7 record and 6-1 in the HHC to share the league title with Greenfield-Central. The Marauders lost their final HHC match at Pendleton Heights 2-1 in an emotionally charged meeting, which ended their possession of the league’s coveted traveling bell trophy.

“We were just trying to keep that streak alive. Win or lose it doesn’t really matter, but you want to win for those guys under you, and it stunk when we screwed around that game and lost,” Clone said. “When you see your defenders trying to play the game of their lives and you’re not scoring, it’s like, man, I’m putting a lot of pressure on them, and I should be doing my job better while they are doing theirs.

“If you have defensive pressure the whole game, eventually something is going to go in. And you just have to have the other side to equal it.”

His own worst critic, Mayhew noted of Clone’s passion for the game, every win and loss was analyzed and evaluated by his son. It was part of the reason the Marauders were 19-2 against HHC teams with Clone in the lineup.

“With him, oftentimes, I often had to go in and talk him down,” Mayhew said. “But as a captain the past two years, he absorbed it all, especially with a loss. Even in a win, he was talking about how we could switch something to attack quicker and help the defense. It was like having a miniature coach out on the field really.”

With his soccer career officially over, Clone now plans to attend Indiana State University next fall. The university doesn’t sponsor an men’s soccer program, but it does offer club, which the future automotive engineering and technology major might pursue.

However, coaching isn’t out of the realm of possibility either.

“I know there are coaches out there that were good players at one point and try to be coaches and it doesn’t work out for them, so that’s a thing where I fear not being able to teach the kids. But I definitely would like to try,” Clone said. “To see them grow, just like this dude (Matt Mayhew) did.”

Like father, like son.

“It’s been pretty special. I was never a guy to brag about wins and stuff or brag about my awards, but I a few. I was kind of the shy guy, being in my own little zone at school. But I’m a beast at soccer I guess,” Clone said. “Someone said, ‘Timmy is a captain, but he doesn’t talk much.’ I said, ‘I do a lot of things. Just watch what I do.'”

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.