The defining moment for senior Episcopal center T.R. Clausen came at the conclusion of his sophomore season.
Episcopal was dealt a 59-16 setback by Class 2A state power Evangel Christian to open those 2009 playoffs.
That gloomy November evening in Shreveport also produced some sobering results for Clausen who, like his teammates, found himself on the wrong side of a matchup with standout defensive tackle Brandon Jackson, a Texas A&M signee.
“That was awful,” Clausen said. “All week I wondered how good he was, and on the first play he does this swim move and just destroyed our quarterback.
“After that game I said I didn’t want that to happen to me anymore. I knew I had to step up and mature. I took it upon myself to work hard in the weight room so I would be prepared for the next season.”
That diligence paid off. Clausen is a mainstay for an offense that generates 40 points and 380 yards per game.
Not only did Clausen evolve into a first team all-district selection a year ago, but he’s also earned the respect of his coaches and peers as one of the team captains for the seventh-seeded Knights (11-1) who travel to No. 2 Winnfield (12-0) for a 2A quarterfinal Friday.
“He’s been through a lot of different lineups but one thing’s stayed the same in the three years and that’s his presence at center,” Episcopal football coach Travis Bourgeois said. “He’s one of those guys you need to have on your team. He’s just a guy who’s been a consistent player for us.”
While fellow seniors, quarterback Vincent Dellocono and running back Michael Henry, were headline returners on offense, Episcopal was faced with the prospect of having Clausen as the lone starter back on the offensive line.
It’s a position Clausen cherished literally and figuratively. Clausen embraced the “big brother” mentality the same way Craig Kinchen and Mike Evers did for him the year before and helped offensive line coach Randy Richard show the way up front.
“I had to help the younger guys get familiar with playing varsity level football and be comfortable with it,” Clausen said.
“I think the spring really helped us, and as the year went along we had people interchange at guard and tackle. Everybody’s done a great job of stepping into their roles and contributing to the team.”
Episcopal’s offense has operated once again at an efficient rate, rushing for 270 of its 380 yards per game and reaching the 40-point plateau six times, including both playoff games. In recent weeks Clausen has witnessed an expansion of his role and has become a two-way performer at defensive end.
Through the luck of the draw Episcopal is presented with an opportunity to make amends for a 33-22 Class 2A regional loss at Winnfield a year ago.
It’s certainly fueled the emotions for Clausen and a 14-member senior class that wants to return home for a semifinal game at home against Calvary Baptist or a road encounter with archrival University High.
“We’re familiar with the atmosphere, we’re familiar with the field and the team,” said Clausen, who will make his 36th consecutive start at center. “Both teams basically have their key contributors back. I think it’s a huge advantage playing them again. Even though we lost it helps us. We’re not just going up there to be satisfied as a quarterfinal team. We’re seeking to play more football.”