3 local high school football teams hit the road for camp
Football training camps open Monday around the WPIAL, and Burrell is taking its show on the road — just like its quarterback.
Burrell senior quarterback James Liput is the returning champion in the Buccaneers' bebopping dance competition, which breaks up the sometimes-monotonous and always-rigorous customs of football training camp.
“It's been going on for years,” Burrell coach Kevin Horwatt said. “The kids enjoy it. It makes for a good, entertaining evening. Last year, (lineman) Matt Hess was our disc jockey, and Liput was the winner.”
Another Burrell ritual is the site of camp — the Antiochian Village, a retreat and conference center in Ligonier.
“It's just us up there,” Horwatt said. “Nothing but us and football. There's nothing around. It's secluded. It's a nice, clean facility, and the people up there are great to us.”
Valley and Deer Lakes also plan to hit the highway for the first week of camp, with both setting up in Slippery Rock.
Valley will set up at Slippery Rock University, alongside seven other teams.
Those neighboring squads surely will keep their distance to avoid full-contact scrimmages, which broke rules and brought WPIAL sanctions against teams in 2001.
That situation changed the way many teams look at going away for camp. Some coaches, though, believe the event has its benefits.
“It really helps you build that team unity. You don't have any distractions, and everyone is right there in the same place,” Valley first-year coach Chad Walsh said.
Walsh said camp will cost about $230 per player, which was covered by numerous fundraisers.
“Our boosters have been great,” Walsh said. “The support has really helped us.”
Deer Lakes will hold camp at Camp Bucoco, located along Slippery Rock Creek, near Slippery Rock University. It is a Boy Scouts resident camp facility, but Deer Lakes will use it as a venue to separate the men from the boys heading into Week 2 of camp.
Texting and tweeting will be out of the question most of the time because Deer Lakes coach Todd Hazlett plans to collect cell phones on the first day.
“Our main goal is to develop a sense of team unity,” Hazlett said. “This facility makes that possible.
“This is becoming quite the production. It's not a football camp facility. We are doing a lot of things like moving a lot of the equipment up there. We're very excited; it will be new ground for us and a heck of an opportunity to have four days of nothing but football.”
Still, camp road trips aren't for everyone. Freeport never ventures off campus for camp. The school hosted a unique, military-style conditioning “boot camp” with the help of local Marines last week to serve as an appetizer to the grueling camp experience.
“We always stay home; it's a tradition,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said.
“It's been that way since I played. We've always gone from single sessions right into two-a-days. I don't want to change that tradition.”
Kiski Area's new coach, Dave Heavner, has been an assistant with teams that have gone away and saw successes in the custom, but he'll keep his Cavaliers home.
“There are pros and cons,” he said. “You look at one reason to stay home, and that's financially. We considered going to Slippery Rock, but you're looking at about $350 per player. Sure, you have fundraisers, but you end up taking money out of the families' pockets.
When Heavner was an assistant at Franklin Regional and Valley, he went to camps at The Kiski School in Saltsburg and California (Pa.) University.
Of course, staying home isn't always comfortable.
The familiar lay of the land can carry its share of burdens.
Freeport players still have to run and execute bear crawls up the steep hills behind the high school.
“That's another tradition,” Gaillot said. “Most of them hate it. But it makes them stronger.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or email@example.com.