CLINTON — Davenport Central never seems to have a shortage of speed.
It’s an aspect Clinton must deal with tonight when it plays host to the Blue Devils in a Mississippi Athletic Conference football game between 1-1 teams.
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“They’ve got a couple of kids with pretty good speed, they’ve got some big linemen and they’re going to line up and look to run the ball,” Clinton coach Lee Camp said Thursday night. “We’ve got to make sure to be disciplined and make them run east-west so we can get our linebackers there.”
The River Kings are coming off a 31-13 loss to North Scott. Despite the setback, Camp saw some positive signs and improvement from the opener, a 41-0 whitewash of Davenport North.
“I think our defense, which didn’t get a lot of chances and looks in the first week, stepped up,” he said. “The cornerbacks did a good job of coming up to contain. We adjusted some things at halftime and came out and played better.”
Camp said the River Kings needed to take a more aggressive mental approach into their games, however.
“We’re going to have to be more aggressive from the very start, ready to play from the opening kickoff,” he said. “We also have to be more disciplined and have to get lined up right all the time.”
That’s especially true tonight because of the opponent.
Central likes to run the ball, and senior Devon Brown is averaging better than 7 yards a carry (30 attempts, 219 yards) while junior Tony Marshall has 101 yards on 24 carries. The Blue Devils have a 3:1 ratio of running plays to passing plays (quarterback Tyler Pethoud has completed 11 of 30 passes for 189 yards).
“If we make a mistake, sheer speed will take advantage of that for Central,” Camp said.
Central opened the season with a 30-27 win at Muscatine, then lost 33-7 to Bettendorf last Friday.
“They came out and played pretty well (against Bettendorf),” Camp said.
Like Central, Clinton has a pair of runners with triple-digit run totals this year. Twins Dustin (22 carries, 156 yards) and Alex (16 for 106) Caldwell lead the way for Clinton, which has a 2:1 run-pass ratio.
The Kings appear to have an edge in the passing game, though. Senior quarterback Eric Maddasion has completed 16 of 31 passes for 256 yards.
Clinton’s offense was almost non-existent in the first half last week, though. Central’s defense could pose a problem, Camp said.
“Their defense is pretty aggressive,” he said. “They use a unique alignment, kind of a 5-2 with an eagle on one side and a linebacker on the other. Hopefully we’ve been able to see it (on tape) and recognize it.”
Clinton’s offense suffered a major blow earlier this week when the Kings learned that senior lineman DJ Bessellieu, who suffered a knee injury against North, would be lost for the season.
“We were hopeful until yesterday,” Camp said. “He’s a kid with a really good future. He was playing up to the level of Jacob Judd (a senior last year now at Western Illinois) at that point last year and was showing some great leadership.”
Making matters worse, Ryan Milroy, who replaced Bessellieu at tackle, and defensive lineman Darean Witt have been battling the flu this week. If Milroy can’t play, Thomas Smith would get the call at left tackle in addition to his duties on defense.
“Then it’s another two-way player (if Smith goes both ways), and that puts a wrench in it there,” Camp said.
While Camp wouldn’t classify the game as a must-win more so than any other since all MAC games are conference contests, both teams are in a portion of their schedules with winnable games that will help them in their playoff quests.
Central has homes games with North and Burlington the next two weeks before facing Davenport Assumption and Pleasant Valley. The Kings, meanwhile, have road games at Muscatine and Burlington around a home game with Assumption over the next three-week stretch. Then comes a home game with Davenport West before Clinton closes the season with road games against a pair of ranked teams, Pleasant Valley and Bettendorf.
“I really never look ahead,” Camp said. “We need to compete the best we can each game. I think you always feel pressure. With every game a conference game, every game fits into that category. If we’re in the other side of the state, we’re still playing games that don’t mean anything (to conference races).”