In a time when many high school athletes are throwing pitches and taking at-bats on a baseball field, several members of the St. James High School football team were donning their gear and banging heads on the gridiron this past weekend.
The Tigers took part in the East Central Full-Contact Football Camp. All of St. James' games were held Friday and Saturday at Hermann High School.
St. James played scrimmage-type games against Hermann, Pacific and Fulton on Friday and against Grandview, Pacific and Orchard Farm on Saturday. Hermann and Pacific are St. James' Four Rivers Conference rivals.
And prior to the Hermann event St. James held a week of football camp at the St. James High Field last week. There were 47 campers from grades 9-12 who attended the Tiger Camp and of those about 25 were taken to the full-contact event.
"We had four good days of camp prior to the full-contact camp," said St. James football head coach Greg Harlan. "We didn't put in all of our offensive and defensive philosophies. But we got a good start."
The Tigers will have one more week of football camp, July 29-Aug. 2, to prepare for the official start of fall practice. The first day of practice will be Monday, Aug. 12. Classes begin at St. James on Aug. 15.
Harlan says last week's camp and the weekend's event were valuable teaching tools for his squad.
"We're going to be a young team," Harlan said. "We've got to learn as we go. We saw some good things (over the weekend) and we saw some bad things. It's just a matter of cleaning some things up.
"We're a little inconsistent; we've got to concentrate on getting better. But going in we knew we were young at some spots. It's a learning process. One of the things about a young team is as the season progresses you continue to improve."
Harlan felt several of his players stood out during the full-contact camp.
"(Linebacker/running back) Jesse Hays, in my opinion, was one of the best defensive players on the field every time we played," Harlan said. "And he ran the ball hard offensively.
"Offensively I thought Jamal Hawkins played well and Jake Money played well. And that's what we need – it's got to be a team effort for sure."
Battling to replace now-graduated Dusty Snelson as the Tiger starting quarterback are senior Cody Birkner, who was a key Tiger receiver last season, and sophomore Brett Karnes, who played QB at the junior varsity level last fall.
Harlan said the Tigers came out of the full-contact camp in good shape health-wise.
"In football you get the regular bumps and bruises, but we got through it," he said. "(Sophomore lineman) Dakota Dixon slightly strained a LCL, but they think he'll be okay."