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Cougar Gridders Hit The Ground Running
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An estimated 300 football players strapped on the pads and helmets over the weekend, taking part in Escalon's annual Wing T football camp.

From incoming freshmen to those entering their senior year, the camp is designed to give players a head start on the fall 2004 season by preparing them for the Wing T formation.

"It has been one of our top camps," said Golden State Wing T program director Steve Verbit of Princeton University. "Escalon has a great tradition, a head coach who is highly respected all over the state of California and that helps attract other teams."

This year's camp featured players from Escalon, Archbishop Mitty, Waterford, Rosemont, Downey, Dublin, Ripon Christian and a small contingent from Big Valley Christian School.

"We have great representation," Verbit agreed of the teams turning out for the three-day instructional camp.

Players gathered Friday morning to start things off and continued with a series of practices Saturday and Sunday.

"The practices are broken down, first we do the fundamentals," explained Verbit. "Then we will have some individual periods and then a team period for practice."

All aspects of the Wing T formation and approach to the game are covered, both from the offensive and defensive standpoints.

Along with Verbit, coaches for the camp include some of the most experienced college coaches in the nation and the Escalon camp also featured several assistant coaches for Escalon and the head JV and freshmen coaches as well.

"We have a coach from Rutgers, three from the national champion Division I-AA University of Delaware, a coach from Moravian, that's the type of staff we bring," Verbit said. "It's one of the great camp staffs in the nation."

Escalon head varsity football coach Mark Loureiro is also part of that staff and will be assisting with upcoming camps in Utah and Seattle, as well as traveling with the Golden State team to put on four camps in New Jersey.

"Mark does everything with us, he's been with us for 16 years," said Verbit. "He's a great coach, has a tremendous personality and is a great motivator...the kids respond to that."

Verbit said the players all arrive with the desire to learn and improve their game and, by the third day, those goals are being met.

"It's unbelievable, how much they progress," said Verbit. "We expect improvement and these coaches are outstanding teachers, so we expect them to constantly improve."

Loureiro agreed that the difference between the first practice of the three-day camp and the last is like night and day, with players more comfortable with the formation and more aware of their role to play in it.

"We've had a real nice turnout, about 300 kids at least and a real good staff in from back East," Loureiro noted.

The weather was cooperative as well, with temperatures edging up to 90 degrees but not unbearably hot.

"All of a sudden, we're here," added Loureiro. "We were still living off last year, still enjoying that (Division IV championship) but it's like I told the kids, the only thing we have in common with that team is the color of the uniform. This will be a new start, with new personalities."

The 2004 squad will look to keep the winning tradition going, spending the three-day camp working hard with that thought in mind.

"We've got a lot of key people to replace," Loureiro admitted, "but staff is up to the challenge."