Way out in the woods of Mitchell, the Seymour football team practices in seclusion.
Nothing but the wilderness. Wilderness and football.
In the silence of the forest, the only sounds come from the players and coaches yipping and yelling.
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The 58 Owls athletes run through drills, at an emphatic pace, three times a day in preparation for their 2015 campaign.
This past week, the Owls conducted a four-day team camp at Scenic Hill Christian Camp.
Around 6 a.m., the Owls begin their day with calisthenics on the campgrounds’ hills and trails.
In the second practice starting at 10 a.m., the pads go on and the offense and defense run through drills.
Near 6 p.m., the Owls finish with a night practice.
“The thing is, we’re roughing it,” Owls head coach Josh Shattuck said. “We’re not staying in a hotel. I don’t have a problem with it, but some teams like to stay at colleges where there are turf dorms and meeting rooms, but we’re roughing it and have a ‘junction boys’ style field.
“It’s an open space that’s muddy, dirty and dusty. It sets the mindset that we don’t need a turf field to practice on to get stuff accomplished. There can be thorns in the ground and mud pits in the middle. It’s not going to prevent us from getting better at football.”
Their practice field is a cut out rectangle in the middle of the woods.
The only way to reach the field? A hiking trail.
“It’s nice to get away from the day-to-day things,” Shattuck said. “We have three practices a day and it’s a small percentage of our time. We rotate offensive and defensive practices so that by the end of the week we install everything. We spent most of the summer on individual skills and now we’re putting things together.”
Shattuck, entering his third year as head coach, said that it’s his first camp that hasn’t been conducted at the high school.
Seven members of Shattuck’s coaching staff were on hand to work with the boys.
The Owls stayed in dormitories and were fed at the dining hall located on the campgrounds.
“Mark Campbell, the campgrounds’ director, has been great making sure that we have water and our rooms are ready every day,” Shattuck said. “The kitchen staff has been great. Every piece of it has been accommodated for us. The kids work their butts off when they’re here and during the free time they get access to 90-plus acres of woods.”
Shattuck said that all but four players on the 65-man football roster attended the camp and thanks to the rise in numbers, he could put this camp together.
“This year our numbers are higher and we’ve improved our physical strength,” he said. “Our goals are to improve every day. Now, we look much more like a varsity football team than the last couple years: in size and numbers.”
Between practices, the boys were given free time to spend with each other. There are multiple hiking trails, basketball courts and a pool on site.
First-year defensive coordinator Ryan McCartney said the camp is a good escape from the busyness of the kids’ everyday lives to focus on football.
“It’s always good to grab a group of young men and come out here (far) from everything, technology for the most part, and do nothing but football before the season starts,” McCartney said. “The morale and attitudes have been great, they’re like sponges right now soaking everything in.”
The Owls have struggled over their past two seasons, and McCartney believes the program is on the rise.
“They are ready to turn the corner here (in Seymour),” he said. “We have some three- and four-year players now who have gone 2-18 (since 2013). They see improvement in the weight room and they’re gaining confidence out here. We’re right about there.
“These kids are being aggressive and rallying to the ball. We’re getting as many helmets as we can. We’re celebrating with each other, and that sounds kind of silly. Last night we ran some drills just celebrating after a pick-six in the end zone. That’s a learned trait, when you’re not winning you don’t know how to celebrate. It’s really positive. If they believe in it, they’re going to be better.”
For junior running back Zach Carpenter, the camp has offered more than individual growth.
“Its been pretty tiring,” Carpenter said after an afternoon practice. “There has been a lot of work, and work ethic, being put in. There’s been a lot of team building. We’re doing lots of drills and reps to get our team to have a strong bond where we can trust each other to do our own jobs.
“They really let us do whatever we want during free time as long as it’s inside the rules. Some people swim or walk the trails. I want to do it again next year.”
Junior center, and defensive nose tackle, Dalton Miller said the team has grown stronger at Scenic Hills.
“We’re getting after it and getting better,” Miller said. “We’ve been really working on our offensive game. I think we’re connecting on different levels that translates to the field. We’re working hard and together.”
Evens Cribs, an incoming junior corner, is excited for the defense and growth of the team.
“Every day we start with our EDD’s (every day drills) and we’re focusing on the fundamentals and getting the plays down,” Cribs said. “Defensively, I want to see us rally to the ball. It’s nice here because it’s closed off, it’s just the team here. You’re with your teammates for 24 hours.”
At 6 p.m. tonight, the Owls will scrimmage Madison at Bulleit Stadium.
Admission is free.
“It’s an open space that’s muddy, dirty and dusty. It sets the mindset that we don’t need a turf field to practice on to get stuff accomplished: there can be thorns in the ground and mud pits n the middle. It’s not going to prevent us from getting better at football,” Seymour football head coach Josh Shattuck