KINGWOOD — Preston football coach Jonathon Tennant isn’t interested in your run-of-the-mill summer football camp experience.
While Preston’s rivals will likely be spending the second week of the WVSSAC three-week period running routes and practicing proper tackling form, Tennant has different plans for his team.
The Knights will venture out for a three-night stay at Camp Dawson, a National Guard facility located just a few minutes outside of Kingwood. Once at the camp, the squad will spend the week living and training together, U.S. Army style. It’s an experiment that Tennant began last summer — and one that he hopes will pay dividends for this year’s team.
“Last year, we just went out for one night,” he said. “But it was so successful we decided to extend it to three nights this year.”
In addition to the rigorous training the Knights are sure to see, Tennant hopes his players will take away lessons on how to bond and grow as a team, and develop the proper skills needed to be leaders in a varsity football environment.
“That will be a big focus next week,” he said. “The National Guard does a good job teaching kids how to lead, and it’s a good team experience. Some of these younger kids need to step up and be leaders.”
Colten Rosenberger, a junior quarterback and cornerback for the Knights, said he is excited for the opportunity to grow with his team in such a tough and challenging atmosphere.
“It’s going to be a good team-bonding experience,” he said. “We’re going to have to live and work with each other.”
Rosenberger hopes that he and his teammates will be able to transfer the lessons learned at Camp Dawson back to the field in order to build a strong foundation for a successful season.
“Bonding will help us build chemistry and learn to trust each other,” he said. “It should also help us to build leadership and maturity, helping us on the field with those aspects.”
Tennant is eager to put the focus on teamwork, leadership and fundamentals; he feels it will be much-needed for Preston, which loses 17 seniors from a team that went just 1-9 last year. The Knights expect about 50 kids to compete on the team this fall, but just 12 will be juniors and seniors.
It’s not a scenario that spells disaster for the Knights, but Tennant knows his squad has a lot of work ahead of it to build the program up.
“These three weeks are just a lot of fundamentals. With 38 freshmen and sophomores on the team and us losing 17 seniors, there are going to be some growing pains,” he said. “We have a lot of talent, it’s just untapped.”
Of course, there are pros and cons to every situation, and what the Knights lack in experience, Tennant believes they make up for with their passion and effort to improve.
“This group is eager and very coachable,” he said. “As far as expectations go, it’s just to get better every day.”
The Knights are once again slated for one of the tougher schedules in the state, drawing just four home games and having to face five WVSSAC playoff squads. The schedule is certain to provide trials and tribulations for Preston, but Tennant sees it as providing an extra incentive for his players.
“We’re trying to build a winning culture in football here, and we have to do it against top competition. We have to up our game and raise our level if we want to compete against these teams,” he said.
Of course, in the end it all comes back to the basics — leadership, teamwork and skill set. Luckily for the Knights, the locker room is buying into what Tennant is preaching. To them, it’s just the first challenge they can tackle together as a young team.
“We just need to grow and come together as a team,” Rosenberger said. “We have to learn to play one ball game together.”