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Luke O’Connell, second from left, gets ready to take a snap during a quarterback drill last week during the Thunder Football Camp.

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About 100 youths grades kindergarten through eighth gathered at Discovery Canyon Campus last week for the 13th Annual Thunder Football Camp.

The high-energy camp was run by Discovery Canyon High School head football coach Shawn Mitchell, his staff and a couple dozen of his varsity players.

“First and foremost you want to interest kids in the game of football,” Mitchell said. “You want to hook them in early, and to come out here and have a good memory of football. And as they get older we want to teach them what we’re doing so when they come up to the high school that they already come in with some knowledge.”

Mitchell is the only head coach in the history of the high school football program. He started it from scratch in 2007 after arriving at the North Gate campus from Harrison, where he was the Panthers’ head coach. Mitchell thought it was a good idea then — and still does now — to take advantage of DCC’s K-through-12 campus setting to get kids plugged into football.

“The middle school kids are doing more specific position drills and skills,” Mitchell said. “There’s a quarterback-specific group and a running backs-specific group and a receivers-specific group that are learning specific elements of our offense. Those seventh and eighth graders are getting ready to play football now, and even though those sixth graders don’t have an organized team here, they are getting ready to come up and play for us.”

Eight graders Luke O’Connell and Jackson Sears have attended numerous Thunder camps over the years. Both are quarterbacks and both are looking forward to playing high school football at DCC.

“It’s nice to come here and learn the offense and have a better understanding of the way they do things here,” O’Connell said.

Added Sears: “I’m super-excited for this next season and to get prepared for high school.”

Kindergarten through fifth graders learned good athletic skills at the camp while playing some football. Everyone participated in flag football games at the end of each camp day. The games were coached primarily by Thunder players, including seniors Zach Surface and Jonah Isakson

“When I came to this camp when I was younger it was exciting for me to see the older guys who were in high school,” said Surface, a wide receiver/safety. “I always wanted to grow into that. And now here we are working with these kids and they’re looking up to us.”

Isakson is expected to be the Thunder’s quarterback this season.

“This camp had a positive impact on me when I was younger,” Isakson said. “It was fun to meet the coaching staff. And now that I’m older I am able to pass on what I’ve learned.”

Surface and Isakson said they are excited about the official start of their season, which begins on Monday. The Thunder has advanced to the playoffs eight consecutive seasons. In 2016, DCC was the Class 3A state runner up to Pueblo East.

“I think this team has a lot of potential,” Surface said. “We can have a lot of success. It will be a lot of fun.”

Pikes Peak Newspapers Sports Reporter

Pikes Peak Newspapers Sports Reporter

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