CEDAR RAPIDS — It wasn’t the senior season DJ Bessellieu was expecting. But, despite the disappointment he endured after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the year he was so happy for his teammates.
“It was definitely tough because I definitely felt I could go out there and perform, but at the same time it was also neat watching my fellow teammates go out there and succeed so highly,” Bessellieu said after Clinton’s 45-0 loss to Cedar Rapids Xavier on Wednesday in the Iowa Class 4A football playoffs. “I don’t think anyone really expected us to make the playoffs. I think it was definitely good watching them, but I felt I should stay positive instead of down on myself.”
Bessellieu had such high hopes for his senior season. He burst onto the scene as a junior, catching the eyes of the coaches. And head coach Lee Camp compared him favorably to Jacob Judd, a starting lineman last year who signed with Western Illinois, at the start of this season.
“I thought I had a really good building season as a junior,” Bessellieu said. “I definitely had a lot to improve on, so going into the summer I definitely had a chip on my shoulder to get bigger and perform while also staying fit and doing everything I can to get better.”
His season lasted less than one game, though. He injured his knee during the season opener against Davenport North, and that was it. He spent the rest of the year watching from the sidelines.
What he saw was a team that finished 4-6 and finished in a four-way tie for fourth place in the Mississippi Athletic Conference.
Several of his senior classmates led the way. Dustin Caldwell was the top rusher, gaining 746 yards on 141 carries, and quarterback Eric Maddasion completed 88 of 175 passes for 961 yards.
Of course, he’s certain both would have had better numbers if he — and opposite starting tackle Trent Hessing, who injured his knee in Week 7 — had been healthy all season. The River Kings lost about 50 pounds at each spot when they were lost.
“I think with bigger size you get more movement, so me and Trent getting that extra size out there, if not giving (Maddasion) extra time would give him extra confidence,” Bessellieu said. “Especially at the beginning of the season before I went out, I felt our line was solid. We were looking sharp in practice.”
Of course, they’ll never know what might have been.