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FOOTBALL | South Kitap football players relish team-building experience at camp
PORT TOWNSEND — Sweeping views of Puget Sound are within sight.
But for 91 South Kitsap football players, this was not a vacation.
For a second consecutive year, coach Eric Canton brought the Wolves to camp in the beds of the old Army barracks at Fort Worden State Park for four days during the last week of July. The players were transported between Fort Worden and Port Townsend’s Jefferson County Memorial Athletic Field for practice.
It is a tradition Canton plans to continue as long as he serves as coach. South regularly attended camp at Eastern Washington University in Cheney under D.J. Sigurdson, who was the Wolves’ coach from 1997 to 2011, but Canton wanted to change that routine when he was hired in ’12.
South baseball coach Marcus Logue, a 2004 Port Townsend graduate, suggested Fort Worden. Canton liked the idea for multiple reasons. It gave him an opportunity to isolate the Wolves and it cost less than traditional camps. Canton said each player paid $250 — about $100 less than team camps — and was asked to contribute $20 for a team barbecue, which the South Kitsap Coaches Association also helped fund. Those fees covered the costs of transportation, housing in the two-story barracks, insurance and room and board for coaches.
Senior Cooper Canton, who is expected to start at quarterback for the second consecutive year, is one of the few players remaining who attended camps at both Fort Worden and EWU.
“We get to focus on us and do what we want to do,” he said.
The elder Canton also likes the flexibility of camping at Fort Worden. Many college team camps are held in June, including EWU.
“That’s another five or six weeks of time for the kids to forget all of the things we have done,” Canton said. “[Former South coach Ed Fisher] always had our high-school camp the last week of July and everything was fresh by the start of practice.”
The Wolves’ first practice is 6 p.m. Aug. 20. They open their season at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at Central Kitsap.
In essence, camp served as a precursor to the 10 practices that lead up to the opener. Canton said they worked on “basic formations and plays” at camp.
“It was more about running those than getting fancy,” he said.
That also enables the coaches to assimilate the program’s younger players. Last year marked the first time freshmen football players competed at South rather than the junior-high level. Freshman quarterback Garrison Glisson said he believes the camp will leave him more prepared when practice resumes. He also enjoyed the “good team-bonding” experience.
“It’s a lot of fun just getting away from everything,” he said.
The turnout for camp was smaller this year — there were 111 participants in 2013 — but Canton believes that is because some were in summer school or on family vacation. Based on the participation level in the summer weight-lifting program, Canton thinks turnout numbers will reflect last year.
Those who participated called camp a team-building experience. No cellphones or computers were allowed. The punishments for using electronics, Canton said, was a trip home. No one was caught violating the rule.
“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” senior Marshaud DeWalt said. “Everyone made it through.”
Cooper Canton said it required an adjustment for him.
“It’s a little weird not having your phone,” he said. “You catch yourself reaching for it in your pocket and it’s not there.
“But it was kind of nice not dealing with the social media drama.”
Instead, players used their free time to engage in activities such as a tug-of-war along the beach and touring the empty ammunition bunkers at Fort Worden.
One night, dinner was delivered from iconic Fat Smitty’s, which is located off Highway 101 in nearby Discovery Bay.
“I thought everything went great,” Cooper Canton said. “All the kids were having fun and practices went really well.”
That internal focus extended to the gridiron. Without attending team camp at a university, South won’t see a different team until the opener. But the younger Canton did not see an issue with that.
“Not having other teams you can’t really compare yourselves to other teams,” he said. “But I think we were still competing with each other just like we would against an opponent.”
The Wolves wore shoulder and girdle pads and helmets during practices, but nobody was allowed to tackle in an effort to keep everyone healthy. Players were divided into 10 different teams.
“I thought it went pretty well,” Eric Canton said. “Obviously, I wish we were a little more crisp and we didn’t have to go back to the basics.”
High-school football teams are allowed 20 practices during the summer — half in pads — and none after July 31. Canton said South had about 18 practices, which includes some that followed weight-lifting sessions. He said that is a sufficient total.
“I knew we wouldn’t get to 20,” Canton said. “You have to let the kids go out and be a kid.”