Thirty members of the Hershey Panthers football squad took part in a camp at Chadron State University, Wednesday-Friday.
The Chadron staff puts on three camps each summer. Hershey joined 11 other high schools from Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming for the second summer session.
Hershey coach Ryan Smith said the camp gives his players a chance to work on conditioning, skills and technique. In addition, they participate in some controlled scrimmages.
The Chadron camp is far enough away from home to allow his team three or four days to have fun as well as to do some bonding and develop friendships.
This is the team’s 18th year at the camp.
Smith, a Chadron graduate, originally chose Chadron for several reasons.
“It’s obvious, they run a great camp, if not we wouldn’t go back every year,” he said.
The players have a say in it.
“The kids enjoy it here and I ask them every few years if they would like a different camp,” Smith said. “They always say they like Chadron. As long as they stay excited about it, we will continue to come here.”
For some of the team, this is their fourth year.
“A lot of them come back. It is a lot of fun even though they get pretty sore,” Smith said.
The camp is beneficial for both the players and coaches.
“It gets them to remember what we did a year ago, the different schemes and gives us a good idea of what we have coming back,” Smith said.
Smith is excited with the turnout on his team.
“I think this is our biggest group ever and we have a lot of freshmen here,” he said.
Smith said the Chadron staff does all the work which gives the coaches a chance to take a closer look at individual players.
“This is it for football for most of the summer,” he said.
The players will continue to utilize the weight room but other than getting together and throwing the ball around in late July, they will be on their own until August practice begins.
Hershey ends the camp the same way each year by climbing the hill located directly behind the football practice fields. It has become a Hershey tradition.
“Way back when, a lot of them would go climb it for fun,” Smith said. “Then about six or seven years ago they all started doing it. I have gone up it a few times with them.”
Smith said he remembers the hill well. He was a defensive back at CSU and he, as well as every Chadron athlete, are required to run it as part of their conditioning routine.
Based on what he observed at camp, Smith said it will be an interesting year.
“I saw us do a lot of good things,” he said.
The Panthers will kick off the 2018 season August 24 at Hastings St. Cecilia.