Local Sports

Moulding the future

— Avon Park High School hosted its inaugural football camp recently.

Youngsters participated in a wide range of football drills, working on everything from offensive and defensive schemes to conditioning drills.

“We are looking to promote our program and find future players,” said Red Devils coach Wade Jackson, who enters his second year at the helm of Avon Park’s football team.

There were 35 campers, who ranged from 5-13 years old, and they were primarily there to learn the basics of football.

As a reward for their hard work, camp culminated in a Punt, Pass, and Kick Competition.

Campers divided into groups and earned points by completing certain tasks like kicking, jumping through hurdles, knocking over dummies, and much more. Awards were given out at the end of camp for first through third place, and best overall.

Red Devil football players were on hand to help coordinate the camp and help coach the youngsters. Jackson said having local players help out is always beneficial.

“We’re all about being apart of the community and building a relationship with our future players,” he said.

And camp also serves as a way for Jackson and his staff to get to know the kids better.

“The kids get to meet the players and me. This is the start of our, hopefully, long relationship,” Jackson said. “I hope the kids will come back to our games and see what our football program is all about. We have a great group of young men helping us coach. They get to see what it is like when the kids don’t listen.”

Jackson, who also participated in similar camps when he was a youngster, said programs like Punt, Pass, and Kick are still popular in the Pop Warner youth football leagues, as well as the NFL.

“I remember playing it when I was younger,” he said. “We have some kids that have never played football before, they have played other sports and have the athletic ability. It was fun to watch them grow and get better all week.”

Dillon Jackson, a first-year participant, said he enjoyed being a part of the inaugural camp.

“I had fun and learned a lot,” the 10-year-old Jackson said. “I want to be a quarterback or wide receiver, and I hope to play football at Avon Park someday.”

Deonta Kerney, a current member of the Red Devils varsity squad, shared those sentiments.

“The kids are very energetic and I’m teaching them what I know,” he said. “I enjoy playing catch with them and learning how to coach them — it’s been a lot of fun.”

While Jackson was pleased with this year’s turnout, he said there’s already plans for next year to get the word out sooner.

“We had a great turnout for our first year, but next year we hope to have over 100 kids,” he said.

Jackson hopes this will turn into a yearly event.

“The players and the kids really enjoyed this week,” he said. “We had several local restaurants donate meals to the kids, and we plan on sending flyers out again next year to the elementary schools as well as advertising on WWOJ. We really love the kids being out and we enjoyed a great week.”

The Devils return a solid nucleus of players returning for the fall and Jackson is looking forward to continuing to grow the program in his second season.

Avon Park begins practice Aug. 1 in preparation for the Kickoff Classic on Aug. 22 against Lakeland’s Tenoroc High School. The Titans will travel to Joe Franza Stadium for this year’s game, which starts at 7:30 p.m.