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Football Camp for the Stars marks 4 years

| Friday, June 28, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
Chris McGough heads down the field with the football as DeQuan Hall follows.
JOE LAFFERTY | DAILY NEWS
Chris McGough heads down the field with the football as DeQuan Hall follows.
Gathering at the Football Camp for the Stars are, from left, Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak, co-chairman of the San Francisco 49ers Dr. John York, 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and Woodland Hills coach George Novak.
JOE LAFFERTY | DAILY NEWS
Gathering at the Football Camp for the Stars are, from left, Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak, co-chairman of the San Francisco 49ers Dr. John York, 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and Woodland Hills coach George Novak.

Considering they had University of Pittsburgh football Coach Paul Chryst, New York Giants safety and former Steeler Ryan Mundy and coaches from two of the area's top high school programs on hand, there was no shortage of stars at the athletic training session.

But Woodland Hills coach George Novak, whose school hosted the annual Football Camp for the Stars benefiting teens and young adults with Down syndrome, said it is campers and their student buddies from Woodland Hills and Thomas Jefferson high schools who are the real stars of the two-day training program.

“We have about 30 cheerleaders, 30 Down syndrome kids and 100 football players from the two schools combined,” said Novak, who has been part of the camp since its inception four years ago. “We get campers here from all over the state. The players get as much out of it as the campers do.”

Besides getting instruction from professional players and coaches, campers are paired with buddies who play for the Wolverines and Jaguars squads. The campers learn the fundamentals of the sport, practice training drills and play games. Food, jerseys and end-of-camp awards are part of the program.

Novak said Chryst and Mundy were popular guests Thursday night.

Mundy, who played for Woodland Hills and was signed by the Giants this spring, was toasted in camp this year, Novak said.

“One of the campers started singing ‘New York, New York,'” said Novak. “They were all asking questions and saying, ‘Go Giants.'” Chryst likewise was honored by participants with cheers of “Go Pitt,” said Novak, adding that four former Wolverines are playing for the university.

The program was introduced to the region four years ago by way of Novak and Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak after they were contacted by Jim Tomsula, who is the defensive line coach for the 49ers and has local ties.

Tomsula and Cherpak played for Novak years ago when he was coaching at Steel Valley High School.

Tomsula became involved with coaching Down syndrome athletes through Mike Machado, who founded the program on the West Coast eight years ago while coaching football and baseball at Valley Christian High School in San Jose, Calif.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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