As if you haven’t been reminded enough by the wall-to-wall coverage you can find on ESPN or the game’s increased PR emphasis on the study of head injuries, football is a violent game. It’s a collision sport, and not just head injuries, but injuries of all kinds are woven into the fabric of how football is played.
Overcoming those injuries can be as big a part of the game as anything else, and through seven weeks, the Morris Redskins — like all teams — have had their fair share of bumps and bruises to contend with. So far, the Redskins have been able to fill the voids left by injury nearly as quickly as they arise, and the Redskins are now sitting with an unblemished 7-0 record.
Morris reserve lineman Andy Clauson certainly knows the perils of playing football, having played on the offensive line since the age of 6. And when Morris senior Brian “Bubba” Henry went down with an injury, Clauson was there to step into the starting lineup.
“As a lineman, your knees are gonna get taken out, and you’re gonna wind up in big piles and anything can happen at any moment, so I’m always ready,” Clauson said. “You don’t have to be the best guy on the field, you have to know the plays, you have to know your assignment, and if you can get that done, you can be the smallest guy out there.”
Similarly, when Morris temporarily lost senior linebacker and leading tackler Nik Countryman, linebacker Josh Lincoln was ready and willing to jump into the fire. Neither Clauson nor Lincoln are big for their position, but the two seniors both bring a wealth of experience and have done an admirable job while showcasing the depth of the 2012 Morris Redskins.
“When we were running more 4-3, I was normally one of the outside guys, but then we put Perry in the middle,” Lincoln said when asked about how comfortable he was in the starting lineup. “Since Nik’s been hurt we’ve put in the 5-2 and my role has changed a little.
“I moved inside, and I was told all week by Coach Courter (prior to Lincoln’s start against Sycamore), if I see a hole open to go fill it. I stepped up and filled a few holes and apparently nobody came out and blocked me, so I ended up getting a few tackles (six).”
There have been a handful of other injuries for Morris, and the Redskins have been lucky enough to have people stepping in and filling larger roles along the way, and it’s given head coach Alan Thorson a huge boost in confidence about the depth of this football team.
“It’s not if it’s when. There is always going to be an injury. We’ve prided ourselves on our conditioning and our weight-lifting. I think we do a good job of trying to avoid injury as much as possible, but it’s going to happen and it’s nice to have the depth that we have at those key positions,” Thorson said.
Part of the credit for developing that depth, of course, goes to the staff. With practice time limited by IHSA regulations, it can be difficult to get the reserves reps, but the Redskins have still been able to find a rotation they’re comfortable with.
“The coaches always have me subbing in with Nik or Jeff every two or three plays,” Lincoln said. “So I get to play with the starters a lot and I feel really comfortable playing with them.”
Of course, understanding Morris football as a brand also has its benefits.
“It’s still Morris football,” Clauson said. “I’ve been playing for like 10 years now and it’s still Power-I and T, so it’s pretty simple to catch on to. I already know the plays, so I was ready from the beginning.”
The Redskins are going to have to get healthy if they hope to make a deep push into the playoffs, and the Redskins are expecting both Countryman and Henry back into the lineup soon. However, the contributions of guys like Clauson and Lincoln, along with so many others along the way, have been just as pivotal as Morris tries to survive the grind of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East, one of the toughest conferences in a tough game.