It certainly felt like football season Friday at Lampson Stadium, even if it was the first day of summer.
The Tri-City Team Football Camp concluded with eight scrimmages between area teams, capping a week of work for players who will suit up this fall.
“It helps us prepare, helps us realize where we are at as a team and where we need to grow,” Kamiakin quarterback Kylle Robertson said. “This is probably three quarters of our summer practices. It’s a good little deal to do before the season starts.”
Teams from throughout the Mid-Columbia participated in the camp, which included practices at their own schools in the mornings this week before meeting up at Hanford High to work against other squads.
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It culminated in timed scrimmages with referees at Lampson on the final day.
“It’s an opportunity to go play against a different colored jersey,” Chiawana coach Steve Graff said. “It’s all the stuff we work on in preseason, then we just go from there. Then we just pick up in the fall right from where we left off, so we don’t have to re-teach a bunch of stuff.”
Besides trying to figure out plays, teams are also getting a feel for who will play in the fall and what works with new personnel.
“We are trying to find our identity right now,” Kamiakin coach Scott Biglin said. “We want to figure out what we are all about, what we can do on third down, what we can do on second down. Are we going to be a pounding team or a finesse team? We’re going to try and figure that out (Friday).”
The camp also gives underclassmen a feel for what it takes to play at the varsity level, and shows the speed and size needed to compete.
“The biggest thing I’d say is they realize where they are physically,” Robertson said of the underclassmen. “If you are getting pushed around by other teams, then we’ve got about two more months in the weight room. I think it’s huge in that standpoint. Physically it is a big difference because you see new guys and where you need to be.”
The Tri-City camp is also better than some of the ones offered by colleges because it is a little less physical, which helps smaller schools who participate.
“When you go to Eastern (Washington University) and things like that, you are hitting way too much,” Connell coach Wayne Riner said. “You are hitting twice a day and scrimmaging, it’s way too much. We are beat up as it is and for a small team like us, it is a perfect camp for us.”
Connell, Wahluke, Grandview and Tri-Cities Prep all participated in the week-long event, along with a pair of Oregon small schools, and Hanford, Kamiakin, Kennewick and Chiawana.
Some of the schools, like Connell, make it about more than just football.
“We camp out in Connell. We have trailers set up, the moms cook for us, we go bowling in the afternoons, play foosball and do a lot of team stuff,” Riner said. “We build a lot of team bonding. We got new kids, new positions — there is a lot of learning, lots of teaching.”
The camp makes up nearly all the summer workouts teams are allowed to have under new rules instituted by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. The WIAA, which didn’t used to regulate summer practices, allows a maximum of 20 team summer practices with no more than 10 of them full-contact days.
Summer practices run from the end of spring sports until July 31.
After summer is over, then it is time to get down to the business of two-a-days and real games.
“Our goal is the same as every year — to win a state championship,” Robertson said. “Whether we do it or not, you set the bar that high and you have a good chance at succeeding. So that is our goal obviously.”
And to reach those heights, players and coaches must put in time in the summer.