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Ford City tackle returns for senior season

| Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, 9:36 p.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Ford City senior Chad Cloonan, listens to a play called by Head Coach John Bartolovic during a recent practice. Wednesday August 13, 2014.

One of the key new faces on the line for Ford City isn't really new at all.

Senior tackle Chad Cloonan was one of the team's more productive linemen as a sophomore, and after a year away from football, he returns to the team and solidifies the Sabers' line on both sides of the ball.

The decision to not play football as a junior was Cloonan's own, but after spending a year in the stands, the 6-foot-2, 270-pound senior was ready to get back on the field.

“I missed it a little bit when you come and see all your friends playing on a Friday night,” Cloonan said. “You miss that feeling getting pumped up, running through the paper (onto the field) and actually getting to play.”

Cloonan's teammates have been supportive of his return to the team, and he said many of them were the ones who encouraged him to come back in the first place.

“They were really hoping I'd come back, and they helped me make the decision,” Cloonan said. “I'm glad I did.”

Count Ford City coach John Bartolovic among those happy to see Cloonan back on the field.

With a combination of size and smarts that his coach repeatedly raved about, the big man has had no problem fitting back into they system he has played since his midget football days.

“A lot of times when kids miss a year, they're almost like being back to ninth or 10th grade again, but he did start as a 10th-grader,” Bartolovic said. “He has the game experience, and I think he'll be just fine. He's a big boy with good feet, and he's very intelligent. He doesn't make mental mistakes.”

After a year away from football, one concern for any player is the ability to get back into game shape. There are none of those worries with Cloonan, who is far more than just a lumbering bruiser in the middle of the field.

Cloonan stayed fit even without football, and he did so by doing things more endurance-oriented than linemen usually face, such as running in last month's Ford City 5K.

“Conditioning-wise, I did a lot triathlon stuff in the summer, so cardiovascular fitness I'm good for,” Cloonan said. “I still need to get a little bit quicker off the ball, but other than that, I'm in pretty good shape.”

Cloonan's return puts a veteran player in key positions for Ford City. As a bookend on the line of the Sabers' Wing-T offense and a anchor in the center of the defensive line, the senior should see plenty of action in his return.

“We're real happy to have him there,” Bartolovic said. “With him and some of the other kids we have back ... we were real pleased with the line on both sides in our first (intrasquad) scrimmage.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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