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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, May 06, 2017 1:00 am

Cougars share secrets with prep players

Fundamentals part of national champs' fifth annual camp

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

Saint Francis' annual Friday Night Lights Camp enjoyed a different glow this year.

With the Cougars still basking in their first NAIA national championship, many of the roughly 90 high school football players who stepped on the field Friday at Bishop D'Arcy Stadium inquired as to how the school made history with December glory.

“Get to the top of the mountain, people want to know if there are any secrets to it,” Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said. “Secret is just a lot of hard work and then commitment and teamwork.”

Perhaps members of a future championship team were on hand Friday, as mostly local recruits were put through the pro shuttle, 20-yard dash and broad jump along with gaining instruction from Donley's assistants at the various positions.

Since its inception five years ago, the Friday Night Lights Camp has turned up a few hidden gems in recruiting that Donley and his staff pursued.

“Oh, yeah, you always find some sleepers, that's for sure,” said Doug Coate, the Cougars' director of football operations. “You'll find a kid that comes from another area and look into who he is and where he's from.”

Coate touts the camp, which cost $20 to preregister and $25 the day of, as the “cheapest around.”

“We kind of hit gold on it the first year we did it,” Coate said. “We think kids are going to have great coaching, compete against each other, a lot of local kids, kids coming from an hour or two hours away, and we make it very reasonable because we want every kid in this area to have an opportunity to go to a football camp.

“We stay away from prom. Sometimes we have conflicts with track and field or baseball, but that's OK, and we're going to keep this thing going, for sure.”

Cornerback Blake Eley, who will be a senior at Carroll in the fall, said he had a great time and learned more about footwork.

“I love the drills they had,” Eley said. “I love the competition. There (were) some pretty good athletes. I love the coaches interacting with the players. It's a great school. A great field. It's a really good facility.”

Coate said the camp, which began at 6:30 p.m. and ran through 9 p.m. on a chilly and windy evening, attempted to teach fundamentals prior to the grand finale of a 7-on-7 session for position players and head-to-head trench battles for linemen.

“Very basic,” Coate said. “We don't have time. Maybe a stance and a start for a lot of positions, and outside of that it's who can go make plays and see how they react and move.”

Donley said he most appreciates a firsthand chance to connect with recruits and evaluate them up close.

Coate said awareness of the camp travels by word of mouth through the prep ranks. As does the host school's seminal achievement.

“They (camp attendees) got that T-shirt that says national champs on there,” Coate said. “I've got to believe they like that, and we're lucky we got it done. These guys know it can be done on this field, so hopefully some will get that fever and come help us win another one.”