Connect with us


REMARKABLE RETURN: Owen Clouse Made the Most of His Time Back on the Football Field at Redbank Valley After Concussion Issues in His Youth

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Sometimes Owen Clouse can’t help but wonder what could have been.

He can’t help but lament the three concussions he suffered by the age of 10 that scuttled his burgeoning football career.

(Pictured above, Owen Clouse/photo by Ripple Photography)

Clouse was a star — the next great player to come up through the ranks. The potential to be one of the best to put on a football uniform for Redbank Valley High School.

But he and his family didn’t want to risk a fourth head injury. That could have ended his athletic career completely.

So Clouse left the football field behind — for what he thought would be for good. He channelled his energy instead into soccer and became one of the most prolific goal scorers in District 9 history, finishing his stellar career on the pitch with 125 goals — a school record that may never be broken.

But even as he was bending shots into the back of the net, a part of him still yearned to strap on the helmet and shoulder pads again. All his friends were playing. His twin brother, Mason, was playing. He wasn’t and it gnawed at him.

Heeter Lumber Logo 2 (1)
Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

As a junior, he made the leap.

He rejoined the football team — only as a kicker — and gave the Bulldogs another dimension as steady special teams player with the ability to routinely make extra points and field goals and turn field position with booming kickoffs.

He played sparingly elsewhere as the season went on.

That experience left him wanting more.

As a senior this fall, his role radically expanded. Clouse set aside his trepidation about suffering another concussion. He wasn’t just a kicker — he returned them, too. He had a scintillating punt return for a touchdown in a statement win over Port Allegany in which he was pinned to the sideline, but made several tacklers miss and sprinted into the end zone.

He saw more and more snaps on defense each week, eventually becoming a force at outside linebacker. He also played some wide receiver and acquitted himself well in that role.

By the end of the season, he was one of the most pivotal players on the Redbank roster on offense, defense and special teams.

Through it all, he found himself lamenting the time on the field that he couldn’t get back.

“Sometimes I wish I could get those two years back,” Clouse said. “I’m just grateful for the time that I was able to have and being able to help the team in any way possible. It just feels amazing.”

Clouse made the Pennsylvania Football Writers all-state team in Class A as a kicker. On Thursday when the Coaches Select All-State teams were announced, Clouse was shocked to hear his name as a second-team selection at outside linebacker.

“I was a little surprised,” Clouse said. “When I was walking down the hallway at school today, someone said my name and that I made the coaches’ team and I thought it was as a kicker. But it was as an outside linebacker. Boy, I never imagined that. It just feels incredible.”

Clouse ended up with 71 tackles, including seven for a loss, a quarterback sack, two hurries and four passes defended despite never playing on the defensive side of the ball until this season.

He was a standout during his youth days until his health issues got in the way. He played quarterback and figured that was where he’d make his impact in high school.

“It just didn’t turn out the way I had expected,” Clouse said.

The biggest thing Clouse had to conquer in his return to football was his fear of getting hurt, specifically suffering another concussion.

That was a process.

“Last year, for sure, I had those thoughts,” Clouse said. “I didn’t want to get another concussion and have my high school career end in all my sports. But as the season went on, I learned how to properly tackle to not hurt my head. I had a few bumps and bruises here and there, but in the end, I came out pretty injury-free and it felt good.”

Ironically, Clouse’s most severe injury came during the District 9 soccer title match when he suffered a severe high-ankle sprain.

It hobbled him severely during the District 9 football championship game, but he fought through it and made some key plays in that victory.

“Throughout my high school career, I’ve always been dealing with ankle injuries and I tried not to think about how much it hurt,” Clouse said. “I just knew I had to battle through it and help the team.”

Clouse helped his football teams quite a bit until the concussions ended that career.

With football out of the picture, Clouse searched for another sport to occupy his time in the fall. Soccer was it.

By his sophomore year in high school, he had set the single-season goal scoring record. He was raw, but made up for it with superior speed and physical skills.

(Owen Clouse after scoring his 100th career goal this fall)

This fall, Clouse was a big part of a Bulldog soccer team that won the District 9 Class A championship, beating perennial power Karns City, 2-0.

Two weeks later, Clouse had a chance to hold another trophy in his hands when Redbank Valley beat Port Allegany for the football crown in Class A.

Two titles just 15 days apart.

“It’s unreal,” Clouse said. “I knew for sure we had a chance in football, but coming into soccer, we had a little rocky start. We had our ups and downs, but we just kept getting better and better. Being a part of both championships just really felt amazing. I can’t give enough credit to all my teammates and coaches. It was just a great accomplishment and hopefully we’ll get to do the same this basketball and baseball season.”

Clouse has actually won three D9 titles in a row. Last spring, the Redbank Valley baseball team won the championship.

Clouse is hoping to cap his career off with an unprecedented five straight.

The basketball team has a legitimate shot with Clouse, Mason Clouse, Kieran Fricko, Breckin Minick, Ty Carrier, Braylon Wagner, as well as others, each capable of having a big game on any given night.

It’s as talented a team as there is in D9.

“That’s the goal,” Clouse said. “I trust every one of us. Any one of us can go off and that makes us super hard to scout. It’s one of the most unselfish teams I’ve ever been a part of and because of that, it makes us so good.”

The Bulldog baseball team also figures to be strong this spring.

For Clouse, it’s sometimes surreal to be a part of so much athletic success at a small school.

“Growing up with all these kids, we had the dream that when we got to high school we’d win championships and that’s what it’s all about,” Clouse said. “It feels great to do this and hopefully carry it on to the next generation.”

Heeter Lumber Logo 2 (1)
Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.