As a senior on Clarkdale High School’s otherwise young football team, Landon Conklin’s leadership role is bigger than most. 

The wingback and safety will help guide a unit this upcoming season that will have plenty of starters from all four grade levels. 

Conklin said he is excited for the challenge of attempting to form one team out of the experienced and inexperienced, and he is trying to lead by example with his fellow seniors during the Bulldogs’ summer workouts 

“We’re just building them from the ground up,” Conklin said. “If we work our hardest, they’ll see that it’s not junior high anymore and they have to move up to our level.”

For second-year head coach Jason Soules, Conklin has already set the bar for his team. While nagging injuries have forced the three-year starter to train separately in the weight room, his presence is still seen and felt by the team. 

“We’ve got him on a different (weightlifting) program, but you look over there and he never stops,” Soules said. “The guys look at him and think even though he’s banged up, and he’s got some issues, he’s not allowing that from keeping him from getting better.”

Soules said it is important to have upperclassmen influence the younger players to persevere through adversity, even during summer workouts. He said Conklin is already setting that tone.   

“We’ve got to have seniors that go, ‘Hey look guys, even if you’re hurt or banged up, you’ve got to keep getting better every day.’”

It’s exactly the mindset Conklin is embracing.  

“It doesn’t matter what you go through, there’s always somebody more unfortunate,” Conklin said. “If you realize that, you realize that you can push through anything.”

Clarkdale is in a new region this year, moving up from 2A to 3A. It will take on five new opponents from 2018. Conklin said he is looking forward to the new competition in his final season as a Bulldog.

“I see it as a blank canvas,” Conklin said. “We have no connotations with any of the teams we play. We should run in there full speed and no fear.” 

Clarkdale hosts Sebastopol in its season opener on Aug. 23.

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