Cleveland High School defensive lineman Henry McClendon doesn’t mind all the attention being given his half-brother Tim recently. On Friday nights, many people are paying plenty of attention to Henry.
For the past three seasons, alternating between end and tackle, the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder has terrorized opponents’ offenses with 152 tackles, including 38 for loss and 16 sacks. He was voted to the Class 5A all-state team as a junior and was listed preseason all-state this season.
So while his brother’s eligibility at Signal Mountain has come into question, the Blue Raiders’ McClendon has stayed focused on keeping his team focused.
“I’ve had a pretty good season, but it could have been better,” McClendon said. “I’ve been learning a new position and have been dealing with a new technique, but I feel I’m coachable and able to do pretty much any position.”
He played defensive end more as a sophomore, but a change in coordinator Brad Benefield’s scheme moved McClendon inside more.
“As a freshman, he was in more of a penetrate-attack scheme, but we switched into more of a read-run,” Benefield said. “It was kind of tough for Henry to get a handle on. He wanted to get upfield and we didn’t need that, so we had to break him of old habits because it’s not an easy adjustment.
“This year we have some concepts of both schemes, so with where he plays, he’s right where he needs to be.”
The Raiders stumbled at the start with an 0-3 record. McClendon said he encouraged his many younger teammates not to get down on themselves.
“We couldn’t fall apart; we had to keep moving forward,” he said. “The losses should motivate us. You learn more from a loss than you do a win, and we had to learn from our mistakes, stop playing as individuals and play more as a team.”
Since then, Cleveland has reeled off four wins in five games and stands 4-4 heading into tonight’s ESPNU clash against Bradley Central. Kickoff is at 8.
As far as his brother, Henry said he keeps in contact with Tim “almost every day.”
“It’s just crazy,” Henry said. “He didn’t know what to do; he was scared and just didn’t know what could happen.
“I just told him the same thing I put as my ‘senior quote,’ that ‘No weapon formed against me shall prosper;’ that he was formed by God and that he’s a winner. When it’s his turn, he’ll be judged by God and there won’t be any appeal.”
Henry said he and his dad went to the Signal Mountain game the day the TSSAA ruled that the Eagles had to vacate their six wins, and Tim was on the sideline.
“He’s a dedicated player,” Henry said. “He couldn’t play and all these people are talking down on him, but he’s still out there cheering on his teammates.”
But for now, Henry’s focus is on his teammates and their ability to block out all the hoopla around tonight’s game.
“I told the guys that the Bradley game started this Monday in practice, and we had to approach each practice like that,” McClendon said. “We can’t let all the outside stuff sidetrack us; we have to be a Band of Brothers.
“If we just make each other better while we’re out there and keep our heads straight, I think we’ll be all right on Friday.”