By Jeremy McDonald
TURNER, Ore.–With the sun setting in the hazy Turner sky and the shaved ice waiting about two football fields-length away, the middle school camp hosted by the Cascade High School Football camp was wrapping up for the day.
With names like Shawn Kunezi and Blake Lewis in attendance, the future Cougars High School footballers were running around with Head Coach Brandon Bennett, his coaching staff and a few of the Cascade Varsity Football players in attendance helping the youngsters have fun while learning a few of the plays offensively and their base defense at the High School level.
“It’s really good because it’s like the same plays and stuff. It helps you do well,” said Lewis who’s entering the eighth-grade this year at Cascade Middle School. “It’s pretty cool because they’re the big dogs and it’s pretty cool and we learned a lot like from the plays and individual stuff.”
For Bennett, entering his third-year at the helm of the Cougars going 18-5 with a State Title in that span, to have this interaction between the Middle Schoolers that go to school right next to the High School and watch them Friday Nights, having this interaction is beneficial to build that connection from sixth to 12th grade.
“”I mean it’s great, it’s great for the Middle Schoolers kids to get to see the High School kids and get to interact with them,” said Bennett. “They get to see them on Friday Nights and they’re kind of their idols, it’s who they look up too, along with having our middle school on campus and being able to see them every single day in the lunch room and out here in camp, trying to create that pipeline that we have here at Cascade of that we run the same offense and defense from sixth-grade all the way to 12th.
“That’s what we try to do from an offensive standpoint, we try to give them our three run plays and four pass plays and get that inbred in them for the two-years they’re in Middle School before they get to High School and then they have to take in the whole complex portion of the offense. Same thing with the defense, we like to teach them our base and have them understand…basically we’re building that foundation for those guys and it’s been huge.”
As a former offensive lineman at Willamette University, Bennett knows how important lineman play and lineman are to the success for the team along with the skill positions behing the belief that the battles are won in the trenches; and that one of the best ways to get lineman to the High School program is through the pipeline to mold them into the next Dominic Federico or Peyton Hunt in the trenches.
“Our big push is with lineman,” said Bennett with no pun intended. “Football to me comes down to the trenches and how we can get those kids moving in the lineman position. So for us, trying to make sure that we get out all the big fellas, all the 2X’s T-shirts in the middle schools as we like to call them.
“We get all pumped up. We make a big deal when we hand out camp T-Shirts, ‘Oh, here’s another 2X’ because we love our lineman out here.”
Photos by Jeremy McDonald