Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Ever since Lowry’s Jace Billingsley became one of the best players in program history, Northern Nevada has become a key recruiting area for Eastern Oregon football coach Tim Camp.
A big aspect of those recruiting efforts are the team camps the program hosts in Northern Nevada each year.
Eastern Oregon held its sixth camp at Fernley High School June 11-14, which included more than 120 players from Fernley, Lovelock and Lowry. Past camps have included Dayton and Yerington.
This year’s camp was the fifth of the spring for Camp and his staff, but the only one scheduled in Northern Nevada. Eastern Oregon has held a camp in Winnemucca for several years in addition to Fernley, but this year Buckaroos coach Taua Cabatbat brought his team to Fernley. Lowry brought 43 players to Fernley for this year’s camp.
“There’s just more teams so it’s better competition,” Cabatbat said. “After a while it gets kind of old going against each other all the time.”
The camp features instruction on individual skills by Camp and his entire coaching staff. The teams were also given opportunities to work with their own coaches, and it concluded with scrimmages on the last day.
Fernley coach Chris Ward said the camp focuses on drills that are universal no matter what offensive or defensive schemes a team runs
“What I like, it reinforces a lot of what we tell them,” Ward said. “We become kind of like their parents, and things that we tell them go in one ear and out the other, but when these guys come up and reinforce what we’re saying, maybe we’re right.”
Lovelock coach Dave McLean brought 25 players. The Mustangs used to take a group of 13 or 14 varsity players to caps at the Eastern Oregon campus in LaGrande, but McLean said they get more out of coming to Fernley, because they can bring more players, including younger ones who benefit more from the skill development.
“The kids and the skills they get from the EOU coaches, especially the young kids, they’re learning how to carry a ball properly and have good ball security, and those things that are individual skills,” McLean said. “And then also we go back and get a chance to run some plays, and also we’ve taken some drills that they use over the years.”
Many of the defensive drills at this year’s camp focused on safer tackling drills.
“”The big thing out there now is called Hawk tackling, developed by the Seattle Seahawks, which is more like shoulder tackling, rugby tackling,” Ward said. “It’s a lot safer because it keeps the head out of the contact. And these guys have been doing it and we’ve been flirting with it, trying to introduce it, but we’re seeing a lot of drills that they do to teach that.”
The Vaqueros had about 60 players at the camp.
“Our kids get coached up by quality coaches, and it makes them aware that there’s other schools beside UNR or UNLV to go to,” Ward said. “And let’s face it, there’s not a lot of D-1 kids that come through our school, but we do have kids that could go on and play at a place like EOU. We’ve got good athletes, but we don’t have D-1 athletes.”
Camp has been head coach at Eastern Oregon since 2008, after serving for two years as offensive line coach, recruiting coordinator and camp coordinator. Before coming to EOU, Camp was offensive coordinator at Bucknell University and the offensive line and tight ends coach at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. From 1997-2002, Camp was offensive line coach, recruiting coordinator and strength and conditioning coordinator at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. In 2000, he was promoted to offensive coordinator. He started his coaching career in 1996 at Western Oregon University, where he coached the offensive line, tight ends and special teams.
Camp was a four-year starter on the offensive line for Oregon State, and received All-Pac-10 honors. Camp signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Chargers after his OSU graduation.
Camp, the all-time winningest coach in school history with a 57-43 overall record
The Mountaineers went 10-3 in 2016, booking its first trip to the NAIA Football Championship Series (FCS) in program history. EOU’s postseason run included wins over then-ranked No. 7 Doane (34-28) and top-ranked and defending national champion Marian (17-0). The Mountaineers ultimately lost in the semifinals to No. 2 Baker, 45-41.
The Mountaineers had two players from Fernley on last year’s roster, defensive back Anfernee Sloan and receiver Skylar Williams, two from Lovelock, three from Winnemucca and one from Yerington. Sloan is listed as an assistant defensive backs coach on the EOU website.
“We’re interested in every Nevada kid,” Camp said. “If you’ve got a passion to play football and want to work hard and it’s not about the money but it’s about the education, Eastern Oregon is a great spot to be.”
Photos by Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter