VANCEBURG Tim Tebow once said, “Following the crowd is not a winning approach to life. In the end, it’s a loser’s game.”
Lewis County’s football team applied a directly opposite strategy, and the Lions hope it helps them avoid a fifth straight losing season.
The Lions joined most area programs in conducting a team camp this preseason. It’s something they’d done in the past, but not in recent years.
“Overall, it was good,” said senior David Keen. “We definitely came together as a team.”
Lewis County football players rolled out sleeping bags in the high school hallway, practiced for two-plus hours a day, chowed down on grub provided by the boosters club and competed in video games such as “Fortnite” on July 30, July 31 and Aug. 1.
Lions 12th-year coach Josh Hughes said Lewis County implemented the model many area football teams use to “just keep them together.”
“You’d think with social media and texting that kids would be more connected, but I don’t really feel like they are,” Hughes said. “Even if it was a lot of video games, they were playing them while sitting next to each other. I thought that part was good. Our numbers aren’t great this year, but we only had one kid who came one night and didn’t come back.”
A small roster and several kids working summer jobs prevent the Lions from holding a camp away from Vanceburg. Usually, Hughes said, the coaches try to put together an overnight event in which the players set up camp on the football field.
“Last year, there were a bunch of storms, and that would’ve been irresponsible, so we canceled it,” Hughes said. “We kinda said then, we’ll stay in the school next year and plan it that way.”
Assistant coaches Ryan Bentley and J.D. Preston have classrooms located in the same vicinity, so the Lions slept in that area of the school. Just one issue arose, and Hughes wasn’t overly concerned about it.
“They were waxing the hallway, and one kid went through the wax,” Hughes said. “(Principal Jack) Lykins was like, well, if that’s the worst thing that happened, that’s not too bad.”
Hughes said the team practiced in an intense manner every day from 6-8 p.m. The players engaged in a light workout each morning, spanning into the early afternoon.
“We let the kids go home each day,” Hughes said. “Before, there was the hard and fast rule that kids couldn’t go home. And you can imagine how that worked. ... We were just flexible with it and I think that helped.”
Pizza and hot dogs were among menu items. Lewis County concluded camp with a Friday-morning breakfast on Aug. 2.
Keen and fellow senior Dalton Fry seized the opportunity to persistently send messages to younger teammates.
“Gotta have people showing up for practice,” Keen said. “Our work ethic is actually better this year than last year.”
“We want them to work their butts off,” Fry said. “We’re not going anywhere if they don’t. We want to win games this year. We want to make the playoffs. We’re not here for no reason.”
Lewis County went 3-7 a year ago, but it missed out on the postseason.
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