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Annual Pigskin Football Camp teaches skills to all age groups of football players

 - Crook County High School head football coach Ryan Cochran talks to a group of grade school players at the annual Crook County Pigskin Football Camp. The four-day camp, which was divided into grade school, middle school and high school divisions concluded Thursday evening.The sound of excited youth filled the air behind Crooked River Elementary School Tuesday afternoon as both elementary and youth football players worked on improving their game.

"Pigskin Camp is really important," said Crook County High School head football coach Ryan Cochran, who directs the camp. "It's just that good spark to jumpstart the season."

The afternoon was part of the four-day Cowboy Pigskin Football Camp, which has become the unofficial kickoff to the start of the football season.

The camp, which started on Monday and ran through Thursday, featured fundamentals and drills for elementary players. Although middle school players also worked on fundamentals, they also spent time working on the offensive and defensive scheme that they will use during the middle school football season.

Later in the evening, after all of the younger kids had gone home for the night, camp continued with the high school team working on putting in their offense and defense for the upcoming season.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - A runner tries to evade a pair of defensive players as the Cowboys worked on gang tackling technique Tuesday night during the Pigskin Football Camp. Head coach Ryan Cochran, who is in the background, says the camp is essential to get ready for the season. This year's camp had approximately 70 grade school participants, 30 middle school athletes and 45 high school football players.

Although the three age groups did not do exactly the same drills, the high school coaches directed the entire camp and made sure that the same verbiage was used in all three groups, as well as the same basic drills and football schemes.

"That's one of our big goals," Cochran said of keeping the terminology and basic drills the same regardless of age. "It's crucial. You can't have a middle school doing something different than a high school. It takes two to three years off a player's development, so allowing them to run the exact same stuff, use the same verbiage, ultimately they are going — ultimately they are going to tune things to their players, but the base stuff is in and the verbiage is in."

Cochran said that the high school coaches work to make sure that the youth flag football, youth tackle football, and middle school football programs use as much of the high school system as possible.

The middle school coaches have been included in the coaching clinics and attended the camp even though the high school coaches ran the camp.

"The middle school coaches are down here with them and this fans the flames a little bit and then they can take off once their season starts," Cochran said."

Not only does the camp jumpstart the middle school and your season, Cochran said that it has helped players coming into the high school program.

"We have seen a big transition, especially in the last two or three years, of our freshmen coming in and hitting the road running versus starting from scratch," he said. "That's because of all of that work our younger coaches have been doing. It's definitely helped a ton."

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - A grade school football player works on blocking technique under the supervision of several members of the CCHS football team. The annual four-day Cowboy Pigskin Football Camp finished on Thursday evening. Cochran added that now that the football camp is in it's 10th year, the coaching staff is starting to see a difference even on the youth level.

"It's starting to carry over, even with the youngest kids," he said. "When we started this 10 years ago, it was starting out fresh all the time and now it's building on top of the previous year, which is so important.

High School players helped teach and provide encouragement during both the youth and middle school camps. However, once the evening camp started, it was all about getting ready for the upcoming season.

Monday the high school team worked on their offensive scheme. Tuesday was all about defense and special teams. By the end of the week, Cochran hoped to have a solid foundation for everything that the team plans to do during the regular season.

For the past couple of years the camp took place before the Crook County Fair. This year, however, because there is a week between the fair and the official start of fall practice, Cochran moved the camp to after the fair.

"It came out good this year," he said. "The last couple of years we have had camp and then a little time off. This year it goes from camp right into doubles and it's a great transition."

Even though there are a few varsity players who were unable to attend the camp because of work or other commitments Cochran said that he was pleased with both the number of players at the camp, and how hard they are working.

"We always want more players at camp, but it's a good core group," he said. "We get things up and rolling and we are happy with the guys that showed up. They are busting their tails."

Following camp, daily doubles start on Monday, Aug. 19. After a week of practice the team will then host its annual Blue and Gold barbecue and scrimmage.

Dinner will be served from 5-7 p.m. with competitive drills starting at 7 p.m. Following all of the drills there will be a short scrimmage.

"It's not just going to be scrimmages," Cochran said. "We are going to have a little bit more lively atmosphere. There will be one on ones with receivers and defensive backs and we will kind of mix things up, so it's not just scrimmaging. It will be a little bit more lively atmosphere."

Cochran added that he expects the team to be ready for the scrimmage and is excited about the year.

"We have a veteran group," he said. "We have a lot of guys that are returning starters and we have progressed a ton. I'm excited for the season and to get things up and rolling. You are going to see a football team that does a lot of different things."

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