Today marks the last day of an opportunity to which local and statewide high school football players have been treated.
The four-day All-Alaska Team football camp at Skyview High School that began Monday marks the first year the camp has been held on the Kenai Peninsula, although that can be attributed to lack of practice facilities available in the Matanuska-Susitna valleys, where the camp has been held for the past 21 years.
All three of the athletic facilities of the Valley schools — Wasilla, Palmer and Colony — are currently in the midst of remodeling.
“It’s like the perfect storm,” said camp founder Randy Klingenmeyer. “But the fields here are exceptional.
“Of course, this is Alaska’s playground, so there are great late-night fishing opportunities for coaches, they’re enjoying that tremendously.”
Skyview coach Eric Pomerleau and Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr. were tasked with preparing the practice fields and facilities at Skyview to accommodate the 271 student athletes from 22 schools that were expected to be attending.
“Randy came to us in November to see what the possibility of hosting a football camp would be,” Pomerleau said. “There is a lot of space to put kids out on a practice field here, so it worked out.”
Klingenmeyer played a role in the creation of the camp in 1992, when he was the Dimond football coach. He said the difference between this camp and many others around the nation lies in the skills and team aspect, which are uniquely combined for visiting college coaches to watch.
“Most camps are a team camp, you line up your team and have offense and defense,” Klingenmeyer said. “We teach skills, each coach has team time, organizational time, we handpick our college coaches based on the scheme that our high school coach is running, and we match them up.”
Eight schools sent full teams, while the other 14 sent groups of individuals which make up a “renegade” All-Schools team. The abundant field space at Skyview also eases the difficulty of working with over 250 kids.
The players have spent nearly 12 hours a day at Skyview, working on specific skills for the different positions, and every day is ended with a 90-minute scrimmage at 7:30 p.m.
“For a middle linebacker, it’s about tackling downhill and making sure the running back doesn’t get to the inside of you, and reading the other team’s blockers,” Soldotna senior Jake Kooly said. “They teach good form in tackling and good angles.”
Kooly is attending his fourth year of the camp, and said he is thankful for the opportunity to showcase his skill set in front of college coaches.
“It’s good to get us represented,” Kooly said. “All the coaches give us good tips, even if you aren’t going down to play college football, so it’s good for everyone.
“They just have more experience with coaching Division II and Division III teams and in-game situations.”
David Rosser, a freshman from Eielson in his first year at the camp, pointed out that he has learned plenty of new techniques as a wide receiver.
“It’s awesome that the coaches want to help us out, because they understand that some of us don’t understand football as much and they’ll go on their own time to help us out,” Rosser said.
Klingenmeyer added that the two things that have been able to sustain the camp for over two decades is the exceptional coaching and the recruitment opportunities.
Of course, without additional outside help, it would not be possible. Klingenmeyer said that assistant superintendent Dave Jones, Kenai Peninsula Borough maintenance, the Skyview administration, and the Soldotna and Skyview booster clubs have all played a part in helping to create the opportunity.
“If Skyview and the borough would not have said yes, I don’t know what we would’ve done,” Klingenmeyer said. “This was the last stand, so they really came through.”