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Future Cougars Learn Drills, Skills At Three-Day Camp
Temperatures that topped out in the mid-90s didn't do much to deter the nearly 100 young athletes taking part in Escalon's first youth football camp, with players from four local programs - and a few individual athletes - on hand for the three-day camp at Escalon High.

Teams represented were the Escalon Outlaws, Ripon Chiefs, Salida Steelers and the Big Valley Sabres out of Modesto.

"We always had worked with high school kids so this was a learning experience for us," said Escalon head coach Mark Loureiro, who worked with Wing T camp coordinator Steve Verbit in putting on the youth camp. "When it was over we were thrilled to death. The response of the kids, the effort and the improvement; it was unbelievable."

Loureiro said the players worked with coaches both on individual skills and blending those into a team concept.

"We worked with them both offensively and defensively and we even had a little punt, pass and kick contest in there with the different age groups," said Loureiro. "We had to keep them busy, had to change the activities real quick to keep their attention at that age, but I was real proud of all the kids."

Escalon resident, Outlaws football player and incoming El Portal sixth grader Austin Faria, 11, said the camp kept him busy.

"I think it's a lot of fun, but we have to be focused," he summarized. "I've done obstacle courses, circle drills, learned how to carry the football, catch, and learned some new plays."

Verbit, who is the assistant head football coach at Princeton University, said he was happy to offer the camp to younger athletes.

"We have these camps all over the country, but not typically with kids of this age. Any time you have a different age group you have to plan differently," Verbit explained. "With these young kids you have to be imaginative in the way you run things because of their attention span. It's important for these kids to buy into this type of instruction now."

Both Loureiro and Verbit said the camp was generally well-received by parents and definitely will help the younger players as they continue with the sport.

"I could see on the first day why football is so strong around here," Verbit added. "The youth involved in football have a great desire to be successful and I think they are already dreaming of growing up to be an Escalon Cougar. It kind of puts a smile on my face to see kids like this working so hard and it shows how strong the programs around here are."

Loureiro said the camp was also successful in encouraging socialization among the young players, meeting fellow athletes from other schools and communities. He said "there's no question" that the camp will return, and he anticipates it could double in size for next year. Cost was $95 for the three days of instruction.

Loureiro then left with Verbit's Wing T program and helped put on camps in San Diego and the Tehachapi area, returning to Escalon on Sunday night. This week, Loureiro leaves for a series of East Coast camps, traveling with the Wing T team.

Verbit said other coaches and players look forward to instruction from 'Coach Lou,' who has built a reputation with his coaching style and prestigious wins over the years.

Sports reporter Ike Dodson contributed to this story.