By Brenden West Herald Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — If there’s one group excited about Clinton High’s newly furbished field turf at Coan Field it’s the River Kings’ linemen.
Last season, the offensive and defensive lines suffered injuries before the team’s opener. Younger players were forced into crucial roles, and the porous old practice fields didn’t bode confidence for big-bodied players.
“There were a bunch of holes to roll your ankle in. It was terrible,” senior left tackle Trent Hessing said of the old field.
“They’d worked hard to maintain it,” head coach Lee Camp said. “It just regressed every year.”
Thus far, those problems haven’t occurred, with the team now playing on the field turf surface that was installed over the summer. Now Clinton is set to test out the new field turf tonight when it plays host to Dubuque Hempstead in a preseason scrimmage.
Camp said the field not only would decrease the risk of lower-leg injuries, but it actually aided his players’ mobility. That’s good news for a program that looks to install a newer, “smarter” gameplan.
“You can practice in a consistent manner and know what you’re dealing with,” Camp said. The lines on the field are permanent, allowing players to better orient themselves in the stadium. “We’re always aligned.”
Senior D.J. Besselieu said, “It definitely helps our offensive guards pulling and our cuts in the backfield are a lot smoother.”
Camp highlighted other conveniences, namely the fact that practices start roughly 15 minutes earlier because the synthetic surface is located right next to the school, so players no longer have to hike to the field next to Clinton Community College to practice. Teams — underclassmen to varsity — don’t have to worry about tearing up the game surface as much, a reason why the River Kings used satellite practice fields.
With those issues gone, Clinton can hone in more on navigating through a tough Mississippi Athletic Conference. It starts with tonight’s 6:15 p.m. game against the Mustangs.
Camp said he expected a good turnout for the first exhibition ever on the field. It will serve as a rehearsal for the season-opener against Davenport North next Friday, when CHS also introduces its inaugural Hall of Fame group.
“There’s a sense of pride among the players that this is our new field,” Camp said.
The varsity scrimmage is part of the annual Fall Kick off at CHS. The fall sports teams will have open practices, followed by coach-parent meetings. The CHS Boosters will feed the athletes and have concessions on sale for fans and parents. The freshman football team will scrimmage Hempstead at 5 on the North Field, while the sophomores and Hempstead will square off at 5 on the Coan Field turf.