August 20, 2014 9:20:55 PM
CALEDONIA -- Eighteen snaps.
Give or take a play and that was the extent of Cody Cliett's junior season with the Caledonia High School football team. Cliett's 2013 campaign ended unceremoniously in the season opener against Heritage Academy when he suffered a broken femur and a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The injury forced Caledonia High coach Andy Crotwell to shuffle an already thin offensive line to make up for the loss of a player who was expected to provide stability at center.
Nearly a year and two surgeries later, Cliett is ready to take the field for what he hopes is a healthy senior season. If that's the case for Cliett and his offensive linemates, the Confederates could be in store for a promising season.
"It has been a slow process," Cliett said. "I had rehab for a long time. I just had to take it slow at first. Now that we have gotten back into the thing, I am just like one of the guys."
Cliett will lead an experienced offensive line and his Caledonia teammates against Heritage Academy at 7 tonight in the season opener for both teams. For Cliett, it is a chance to get back to work after a promising junior season ended with a serious injury, Cliett didn't have his second surgery, the one to repair his ACL, until December. He said he didn't know until after he had the first surgery how badly he had hurt his knee. But now that all of the rehabilitation has been completed and he is back with the Confederates, Cliett said he is prepared to be playing guard, his old position, once again. He feels confident he can team with center Bobby Rushing, right tackle Carrlon Byrd, left guard Tristan Nessel, left tackle Daniel Cunningham, and tight end Ian Hartmann to be a driving force behind the team's success. Of those six, Byrd, a junior, is the only one who isn't a senior.
"We trust each other, and we know the guy beside us is going to do his job, so we can focus on doing our job," Cliett said. "We trust everybody knows the offense and everybody is going to do their best and give it their all every play. That experience helps because we have a lot of younger offensive linemen as backups that we help in practice to make sure they get it."
Crotwell said Caledonia will look to an offensive line to play a key role for a team that is working new players -- sophomore quarterback Spencer Unruh and senior running back Brandon Henry -- in at the skill positions. He feels having an offensive line intact gives inexperienced or experienced playmakers confidence, so Unruh, Henry, and the rest of the Confederates should feel good about having six upperclassmen up front. He also said the experience some players gained last season filling in for their injured teammates will make transitions easier.
"It has the potential to dividends to an extent," Crotwell said. "Those guys who filled in in those roles have been farmed out to other positions."
Crotwell said Jacob Sudduth, who came in vs. Heritage Academy at right tackle when Cliett was hurt, gained valuable experience last season. This season, he will play on the defensive line. Jantsen Glasgow, who also played on the offensive line but naturally was a defensive player, has moved to H-Back, a position that has similar responsibilities of an offensive lineman.
As far as Cliett is concerned, the only adjustment he will have to make is not snapping the ball being back at guard. It's not that he minds, though, because he said he didn't have any problem with the center-quarterback exchange.
Nessel believes getting Cliett back up front will be an important piece to the team's success. He said the camaraderie and familiarity all of the offensive linemen have with each other makes it easier for them to anticipate assignments and to have each other's backs.
"I love it," Nessel said of the offensive linemen's confidence. "Daniel and I have been playing next to each other for years. Cody, Bobby, everyone, we trust each other. It is kind of like family. We know if we call this play we are all going to get our guy, and sometimes we don't even have to call the double-team because we all know it.
"We feel like it all starts up front. Football, no matter the level, is always like that. We take pride in that because we feel like it starts with us and we have to finish it and we have to be the first ones out there and the last ones to leave. We just have to put in all of the work before everybody else."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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