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Football camp preparing future Giants

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DRILLS: Campers go through pursuit drills during the Little Giants Football Camp on Saturday at Marion High School.
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SKILLS: JK Thomas works with a pair of youngsters on quarterbacking skills during the Little Giants Football Camp Saturday at Marion High School.
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GIANT FAMILY: Players from Marion's 2019 football team share a prayer with future Giants at he end of the Little Giants Football Camp Saturday in Dick Lootens Stadium.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

The future of Marion football, both immediate and distant, was on display on the Dick Lootens Stadium turf Saturday afternoon.

One of the most important factors for sustaining success for any high school athletic program is building a feeder system, and around 40 third through sixth graders took part in the first Little Giants Football Camp.

For nearly three hours, Marion’s varsity and JV players taught the enthusiastic group of up-and-coming Giants basic skills with drills and individual instruction before breaking into teams for a seven-on-seven, two-hand touch tournament.

“Our main focus is the fundamentals. I think that’s where it starts at,” said Isaac McClung, director of the Marion Youth Football program and the Little Giants camp. “I’ve played the game myself and been around long enough that that’s where we need to focus here in Marion.

“We have the talent. We have the athletes and we will always have the kids,” he continued. “If we can just hone in on the fundamentals and the feeder system, we can have state programs coming through here almost every other year.”

The Giants are coming off one of the most successful seasons in school history accumulating a 14-1 record and winning North Central Conference, sectional and regional championships along the way.

Marion coach Craig Chambers is entering his fourth season directing the football program and getting a feeder system in place and running has been a mission of his since he arrived.

Chambers was mostly an observer on Saturday and enjoyed watching his current players help train the future of Marion’s football program.

“The youth is very important. The surrounding schools that have the feeder programs have been very successful year after year, and that’s what we’re trying to do here in Marion to make sure we’re successful year in and year out,” Chambers said.

And having Chambers believes having current Giants work with the younger players is a very important factor in getting Marion’s feeder program running at full bore.

“Just to come out here and see the high school kids care about them,” Chambers said. “They took the time to come out here and bond the with (players) and hopefully they’ll come out to the games.

“The biggest thing I always say is, as a kid you think ‘I want to be like number such and such when I get to high school.’ he added. “If we can see that then I’m pretty excited about it.”

McClung grew up in Marion and experienced some of that bonding with high school athletes when he was just a youngster. He echoed the importance of having the big Giants teaching the young Giants the fundamentals of football, but also said it’s good for everyone involved.

“It was very big from the standpoint of the kids being involved with the varsity program, to actually learn from them and to also look up to them as a role model,” McClung said. “I think it’s good for the varsity program to take a look at the young kids who will come up in the future and actually help them out to grow up and be good men themselves. I think it works for both parties. I’m glad we’re able to do it and we’re going to continue to do it.”

The seven-on-seven portion of camp brought out the competitive spirit for everyone involved. Marion’s players huddling up with campers and drawing up plays, then cheering wildly when one of the campers would make a good play.

“It’s just a joyful thing, it really brings happiness to me,” said JK Thomas, senior standout and reigning Grant County Player of the Year. “They just want to come out here and have fun. They get to see what we do and learn from us.

“Mainly I was just trying to teach the basics of football, get your feet set and how to throw the ball,” Thomas added, after working with a pair of youngsters on basic quarterbacking skills. “Just teach them the basics while they’re still little.”

Juan Carlos Ramirez, a senior linebacker for the Giants, said the camp had a bit of extra importance as he was teaching his younger brothers.

“I’m just trying to teach them as much as I can so when they get up to the next level, they know everything and how it goes,” Ramirez said. “The main thing was fundamentals, make sure they get their feet right. When they get the ball, make sure their hand placement is right. Just the little things they can work on every day and get better.”

James Seybold, a sixth grader at Justice Intermediate School and younger brother of senior offensive lineman Michael Seybold, talked about what he'll most take away from the camp.

"Just learning how to catch the ball and the coaches were really nice," said Seybold, 11. "I can actually play football and now I know what I'm doing."