Robert Husseman, The Triplicate

Football camp at Gasquet Mountain School tests mettle of Del Norte High players

At 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, the Del Norte High varsity and junior varsity football teams received an unwelcome wakeup call.

A U.S. Army recruiter bellowed into the ears of sleeping players and ordered them up for a military-style conditioning session.

Thus began the second day of Del Norte's fall camp, held at Gasquet Mountain School. The camp began Monday and continues through tonight. Players have been sleeping in the school's gymnasium, practicing on its grass field and making themselves present across Gasquet.

"The town has really opened itself up to us," head coach Ray Rook said. "We're thankful."

Organized team activities - including football practice, film study, meals and team-building exercises - have occupied at least 12 hours of each of the four days.

"Waking up at 5:30 a.m. shows guys what it takes to beat a caliber of team like West Valley, like Eureka in the fourth quarter," senior running back/linebacker Jordan Carpenter said.

West Valley High of Cottonwood is Del Norte's first opponent of the 2013 season; the game takes place Aug. 30 in Cottonwood. The Warriors travel to Eureka High on Sept. 20 and return the favor with an Oct. 25 home game.

Both the Eagles and the Loggers dealt Del Norte losses during the Warriors' 2-8 campaign in 2012. That team, according to players, lacked the unity and purpose that the Gasquet camp aims to instill.

Following calisthenics on Tuesday, the players were sent on an eight-mile run up and down a steep hill. The next event was a task-oriented scavenger hunt that sent groups of seven to eight players across Gasquet to finish their list of tasks in time. (Who won the scavenger hunt remains a matter for debate due to allegations of cheating by multiple parties.)

"It didn't even feel like 6.5 miles," Carpenter said of the distance covered by the scavenger hunt. "We were just doing it."

Coaches assigned players among eight groups at random, with seniors designated leaders. Each group has representation from the four grade levels and two levels of football.

"You get to kind of bond with them," said Carpenter, a senior group leader, of the younger players in his group. "Half my group, I didn't really know of them. Now, we're just laying down at night talking."

Dialogue has extended to on-field activities.

"In practice, if guys are struggling with a drill, you go talk to them, help them out, show them what the drill is," junior wide receiver/defensive back Humberto Cortez said.

Which is the point of the whole endeavor - instilling that level of comfort and camaraderie. Players are learning to work with their peers, as well as their coaches.

"They get off work and drive straight over here," Cortez said. "They're helping you 100 percent."

Afternoon activities included two separate practice periods, film study and an hour-long break, which most players used to sleep. By dinner time at 5 p.m., fatigue was kicking in.

"We're getting tired together, breaking down together," Carpenter said. "We're also building up together."

Following dinner was an hour-long practice in full pads and a film session, the last of the day. The energy on the grass field picked up during a 3-on-3 drill with two blockers, a ball carrier, and three defensive players going for the tackle.

At 9 p.m. on Tuesday night, a kangaroo court was called into session. Senior quarterback/safety Dylan Pease acted as judge, and two players served as prosecutor and defense attorney. A group of five varsity players served on the jury.

The kangaroo court doled out punishment of a physical nature for various infractions. In one instance, a junior varsity player convicted of leaving his helmet outside the gymnasium overnight was required to wear his helmet while in the gym at all times Wednesday.

Carpenter and Rook each stood trial for related infractions, Carpenter for cheating in the scavenger hunt by using a wheeled vehicle and Rook for "aiding and abetting" Carpenter.

Both pleaded guilty. The punishment: assuming the "dead cockroach" position - lying on one's back, legs and arms pointed straight in the air - for three minutes, in the middle of the gymnasium floor.

Both complied with the punishment, and offensive coordinator Gene Mitchell motioned for a temporary recess of the court. Players gathered round and snappedphotos of their head coach serving out his sentence.

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