MIDWEST CITY — Caleb Holland admits he was a little scared when the doctor started explaining the cause of the pain in Holland's abdomen.
A swollen spleen isn't exactly they type of injury you can tape up for a football game.
Holland missed the first two playoff games for Carl Albert, but returned last week and will play a key role on the Titans' formidable offensive line in the Class 5A state championship game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater.
“We're happy to have him back,” quarterback Steven Thompson. “He's the main piece on our offensive line, and we need all of those guys. They're the key to our offense. When they do their job, we'll probably win games. They've been perfect lately.”
Holland found out the day of the first-round playoff game at Del City that he wouldn't be able to play because of his spleen condition.
“I had a risk of a ruptured spleen,” he said. “I had practiced all that week, but I hadn't been felling good, so I knew something was up. But I was just being stubborn and ignoring it.
“When I got told how serious it was, I was scared, and disappointed I couldn't play.”
Holland, a 6-foot-1, 252-pound senior, is receiving Division I recruiting interest as an interior lineman, but he's vital for the Titans at tackle. He still has no idea what caused the spleen to swell, but he was medically cleared in time to practice all last week before the semifinal game.
His return means junior Anthony Woods, 6-foot-6, 308 pounds, can shift back to his natural spot at the other tackle position, and senior Kyler Walker can go back to being primarily a defensive player.
“It's hard work being Caleb Holland,” Walker said with a laugh. “Having him back is really big, because we really need him out there. And it gives me a rest so I can go all-out on defense.”
Carl Albert will need the blocking of Holland, Woods, Gavin LaValley, Cory McCalister, Robert Lolofie and Trenton Ball to open holes against a speedy East Central defense Saturday night.
The line was the area with the most experience coming into the season, with no returning skill players behind them.
“Through the first couple weeks, we were working on jelling together,” Holland said. “Once we hit the last couple weeks of the regular season, we got things rolling. And now in the playoffs, I think we've surpassed our potential, and we're reaching new heights now.”