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Story Last modified at 12:31 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pigskin summer: Area players hit gridiron at annual camp
All Alaska event is a football fixture

BY MATT TUNSETH
Alaska Star

photo:Sports

Eagle River senior Jarod Brown pulls against two of his teammates to win a preliminary round of the towel pull competition during the All Alaska Football Camp at Colony High on June 23. The competition was staged as fun way for teams to build camaraderie and compete against each other.

photo:Sports

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo coach Steve Cox gives instructions to Chugiak quarterback Isaac Temple during team time at the camp.
STAR PHOTOS by MATT TUNSETH

For one week every summer, Colony High school becomes the center of the Alaska football universe.

"We've got a lot of schools represented here," said Randy Magner, director of this year's 20th annual All Alaska Football Camp, which drew more than 300 players from the majority of the state's 31 prep football teams to Colony's athletic fields. "We've got 'em from as far north as North Pole and Eielson and as far south as Sitka and Kodiak."

Chugiak's team has been a constant presence at the camp since it first began 20 years ago. The Mustangs were again well represented this season, with nearly 30 players in camp. Also attending this season were a large pack of Eagle River Wolves, something head coach Kenny Ray has hoped to see since he began his tenure before the 2009 season.

"This is the first year we've made it," Ray said.

The camp pairs high school players and coaches with college coaches from programs across the nation. Steve Cox, a linebacker coach at the University of California at San Luis Obispo, said the camp is one of the best ways for prep players to improve their games before the season.

"The more reps you get, the better you're going to be," Cox said.

Cox said the importance of getting lots of reps is magnified by Alaska's condensed season, which begins before school starts in the late summer and ends in October before the winter sets in.

"These guys only play eight games a year. In California they play 10 or 11," Cox said. Ray said the presence of the college coaches is invaluable.

"You've got a vast amount of knowledge here, some great football coaches," Ray said.

Over the course of the three-day camp, which ran June 20-22, players received training in individual offensive and defensive positions, as well as team defensive tactics. Teams like Chugiak and Eagle River were able to practice as a unit, with scrimmages held each evening after dinner.

Players slept at the school, giving teams a chance to begin the bonding process that can make or break a high school football team.

During dinner each night, players crowded around tables in the Colony cafeteria, trading war stories in between mouthfuls of food. Chugiak senior lineman Kody Trombley said the annual camp is a key part of the season.

"This is a big team thing for us," Trombley said.

High school football practice starts at the beginning of August, meaning players have just a month left before they start lacing the pads up for real – and just two weeks of practice after that before the games begin.

Kenny Ray said getting a team together throughout the summer is vital to building a strong program.

"It's very important to do things like this," he said. "The kids can say they're going to the Alaska Club or something like that to work out, but nothing is like being in a weight room with your teammates and everybody pushing each other. When you get your team to a camp like this, they push each other."

Eagle River's Jarod Brown, a senior lineman, said he attended the camp last season with maybe four other Eagle River athletes. But with one of the largest contingents at this year's camp, he said the squad is already starting to come together.

"This year it's a lot better because we're a team," he said.

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com



This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, June 29, 2011.