CLINTON -- When the high school football season began, the Clinton playbook included a formation where its two starting tackles, DJ Bessellieu and Trent Hessing, lined up side by side.
That plan didn’t even make it through the first game, when Bessellieu went out with a knee injury. They finally lined up side by side last Friday, but not in a good way. Hessing joined his fellow senior lineman on the sidelines when he injured his knee during Clinton’s 37-23 victory against Davenport West.
With road games remaining against a pair of teams ranked in the state’s top 10 in Class 4A, the River Kings (4-3) really could use the 6-foot-1, 244-pound Bessellieu and 6-2, 254-pound Hessing.
“Those are two linemen who came on and had real solid junior seasons,” coach Lee Camp said. “We’re replacing them with quality kids, but we’re also giving up about 50 pounds a man. Not only are we lighter, but we have to use more guys two ways.”
Justin Guilliams, a 194-pound sophomore, will move into a starting spot at guard, while 201-pound senior Nate Harden will move from guard to tackle to replace Hessing.
The one good thing for Clinton, though, is that the final two regular-season games likely don’t mean as much after recording wins against Burlington and West the past two weeks. With four wins, the River Kings have all but sewn up one of the 16 spots that go to teams from the eastern part of the state in the 4A playoffs.
“We don’t feel our backs are against the wall, that it’s do or die,” Camp said Wednesday night. “In some ways it lets you focus on this is the next important game we play.”
Camp likes the way his team is playing right now, too.
“Probably the most positive thing I’ve seen the past two weeks is the confident and competitive attitude,” he said. “We’ve made some adjustments at halftime and come out with a ‘get it done’ attitude.”