Tonganoxie football campers beat heat
Tonganoxie High football coach Mark Elston deemed last week's high school camp a success.
Working with an overall younger squad in 90-degree weather, the Chieftains had a productive week, the sixth-year coach said.
"They really improved from June to this point," Elston said, referring to the beginning of the summer training session. "Guys understood and really came together well."
When the team is at full-strength, roughly 65 players are on the practice field.
But with some players involved in other activities, such as baseball or family vacations, the number of participants fluctuates.
"Trying to get 65 kids there at the same time is a little difficult," Elston said. "But turnout the first and last nights was really good."
The camp started July 11 and ended last Thursday.
The next time the full team gathers will be for the official start of the football season.
Practice begins at 7 a.m. Aug. 15 on the high school practice field.
Elston coaches in all-star game
Midway through the summer, Elston had an opportunity to coach some players who were not wearing big T's on their helmets.
Elston helped coach in the Mo-Kan Football Classic on June 16 at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. The all-star game consisted of top outgoing seniors from Kansas and Missouri in the metro area facing off against one another.
"It was a neat experience," Elston said.
The Kansas team practiced for two weeks at Mid America Nazarene University in Olathe before taking on the Missouri squad.
The Missouri team earned a 38-15 win.
Shawnee Mission North coach Sam Brown was the designated head coach for the Kansas team. Coaches from KC-Schlagle, Baldwin, Olathe North, Lawrence High, Shawnee Mission West, Shawnee Mission West and Blue Valley Northwest also coached.
Elston thought the Kansas team was at a disadvantage because it wasn't able to practice on artificial turf, which was the playing surface at William Jewell. The Missouri team, meanwhile, practiced both weeks at William Jewell.
Mill Valley's David Woods and a Baldwin player were the only athletes on the Kansas squad who were not from a Class 6A or 5A school.
Elston, though, was most impressed with the two 4A players.
"Those two kids took a tremendous amount of pride in every meeting and everything they did," Elston said. "4A kids work harder and take more pride in things," Elston said. "6A kids didn't show as much enthusiasm.
"I know I'm biased, but there was a difference in attitude in my view."
The Tonganoxie coach actually would have liked to take on the Missouri squad again.
"I would have liked to have fielded the best from our conference against the best of Missouri and I think the pride factor would have done us a lot better," Elston said.
The THS football team has new "high-tech" shoulder pads, thanks to donations from Paul McKie and Tailgate Ranch, which is south of Tonganoxie. The team also purchased newer hip and girdle pads with money raised by selling discount cards to local residents this summer.
"Equipment-wise it adds to our speed," Elston said. "It's extremely high quality, but it wasn't cheap."
Elston said the team was appreciative of the donations and of residents buying the discount cards.