Even though it’s 90-plus degrees and school doesn’t start for another month, high school football season isn’t that far away.
Teams can’t be too ready to drive to the red zone, or face third-and-long and other football situations. Football teams are officially within a month of the first game of the season.
That’s why 12 varsity teams put on their helmets and pads Wednesday to spend two full days playing football.
Branson High School hosted the sixth annual Branson Team Camp at Pirate Stadium this week to offer teams a chance to drill and scrimmage in different formats.
“There are some good football teams here,” Branson football coach Dan Henderson said. “They keep coming back, so it’s a good camp.”
To promote player safety under a National Weather Service heat advisory, scrimmages were limited to 25 minutes with 10 minutes of time for water breaks in between, and camp sessions took place during morning hours.
Teams such as Branson, Mount Vernon, Reeds Spring, Neosho and Willow Springs took on some out-of-area teams in jamboree style scrimmages, red zone scenarios and a “third down challenge,” in which an offense got one play to go seven yards against another team’s defense. Whichever team succeeded on the play stayed on the field to take on a challenging unit from another team.
“It’s just to see different people. There are a lot of things that we need to work on, and you can’t do it in intersquad situations,” Henderson said.
The camp’s goal is simple: provide each team with as many “game like” plays as possible.
Mount Vernon, coming off a 4-6 campaign, marked its third year in a row to take part in the Branson Team Camp. Veteran coach Tom Cox, who like Henderson is in his third year with his program, noted how the “team camp” concept evolved due to changes in the rules on how often a football team can practice in the summer.
“It’s so different now than when I was coaching before. We couldn’t do anything before,” Cox said. “They took five days away from us this year and we still have 20, and five of those can be in full pads, so it does change things.”
Some of the out-of-area visitors included some of Henderson’s former foes from his time at School of the Osage: Eldon, Versailles and Blair Oaks, plus Lutheran North, Berryville, Arkansas and Harrison, Arkansas.
“These guys that are coming in, the advantage they get other than getting to play is the team bonding—getting on a bus together, staying in a motel together, going down to the Rec Plex and swimming together, those bonding things,” Henderson said.
Still, Pirates quarterback Ryan Still had plenty of reps with wide receivers Luke Masters and Chad Utzman and running back Hunter Weber.
Like Branson, Mount Vernon has some question marks on the offensive line, where turnover was heavy in the offseason. There’s one way to fix it.
“We do exactly what we’re doing today. I told them, ‘we’re going to run things that may not fit the situation here, but we want to make it as tough on you as possible out here,’” Cox said. “We want to win more on Friday night than we do this Branson camp scrimmage.”
The Mountaineers bring back a senior aerial threat combination in quarterback Garrett Hadlock to wide receiver Jarrett Massie. The challenge will be for Cox, who calls Mount Vernon’s offensive plays, to find successful touches for up-and-comers Andrew Montemayor, Sammy Robinson and sophomore Will Boswell.
“I’m going to have to be a little more creative in getting these other guys the ball, because we have a lot of other guys who are capable of making plays,” Cox said.
Each football team’s booster club funded the costs of attending the two-day team camp.