Training worth the trip

Published 11:12 pm Friday, July 29, 2011

Training: Official high school football practices get going next week, but 33 King’s Fork players traveled to a 7-on-7 and lineman challenge camp in Johnstown, Pa. last week. It’s the third straight July the Bulldogs have gone to Johnstown, where KF head coach Joe Jones grew up.

Bulldogs travel to Pa. for summer football tourney

A 16-hour, two-to-a-seat school bus trip with spending a night in sleeping bags in a wrestling room doesn’t sound like a trip most teenagers would choose to go on during summer vacation.

Thirty-three King’s Fork football players chose exactly that, plus two days of hard work on the football field and a couple history lessons on the side, by going to Johnstown, Pa. for what’s already become a Bulldog tradition for the last three Julys.

Before playing at Virginia Tech and as a pro, and before coaching high school football for the last two decades in southeastern Virginia, Johnstown was home to KF head coach Joe Jones. That’s the initial reason he took King’s Fork north for a 7-on-7 passing game tournament and a Big Man Challenge there in 2009.

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“We knew with budget cuts, we’d have to cut back on summer trips some,” Jones said.

“We were allowed one big trip and the kids chose this one,” Jones said.

Each of the three years, the Bulldogs have finished first or second in the 7-on-7 tournament half of the camp.

The Bulldogs beat Forest Hills, Jones’ high school, along the way to get to the championship game but lost there in a 10-point game.

“One more great thing about the trip is I get to have my guys meet the three most important men in my life, my dad, we pulled the bus right up into my dad’s driveway, my brother and my high school coach,” Jones said.

Don Bailey has been the head coach at Forest Hills since 1975.

Jones took his squad to Forest Hills and to the monument in Johnstown remembering the 1889 dam break and flood that killed more than 2,200 people and left many more of the town’s 30,000 residents homeless.

A friend who runs a catering business in Johnstown hooked up the Bulldogs with a huge dinner following the first day of camp.

“He had barbeque ribs, whole chickens, pulled pork, everything for us. It was a feast,” Jones said.

Eight Bulldog linemen made the trip for the lineman challenge, an idea Jones has since brought back to Suffolk, most notably at the annual Peanut City Shootout. King’s Fork finished fourth in the field, made up of Pennsylvania schools, where prep football is as serious as anywhere.

“All eight of our guys are underclassmen, so they did very well,” Jones said.

“It’s always been great for team camaraderie, for team building, for us,” Jones said. “It’s become a good ending to our summer program.”

Even the bus rides built character, including a red-eye trip from 6 p.m. Sunday to 3 a.m. Monday, with two guys to a seat and the coach doubling as driver.

“I drove the bus, just to save some more money,” Jones said.

“We got back and told the guys to take this week off, at least mostly, then be ready to work, ready to go, on Monday,” Jones said, with Monday, Aug. 1 as the first day of practice for the official preseason.