Finding brothers in the woods

Driving around the backwoods near Mitchell, Tribune photographer Aaron Piper and I navigated our way down one-lane county roads searching for Seymour’s football team.

Following some unintended exploring, since our given address didn’t show up on my GPS, we came across a sign for Scenic Hill Christian Camp in front of a dead-end road amongst the corn fields.

Taking the left turn, the camp sits a quarter mile down the road on the right-hand side.

At the front of the grounds sits logged dormitories, a dining hall, swimming pool and office.

With no football players in sight, we stopped by the white-washed office and were approached by a woman, probably in her late-40’s, working the grounds.

I asked her if we found the correct location, and where the Owls were practicing.

“Up for a hike?” she asked with a smile.

“Walk towards those trees and there’s a trail. It’s not well marked, so follow the voices. They’re out there, you’ll find them.”

Aaron strapped up his camera equipment and we wandered into the leafy wilderness.

We walked near a half mile, following the voices, as instructed, and climbed to the top of a hill.

At the minor summit, we gazed upon a large clearing.

It looked like a team of chainsaw-wielding workers came in and cut a giant rectangle in the middle of the woods, but there they were, wearing chest and shoulder pads, sporting the signature purple helmets.

Practice equipment, like hitting dummies, lined one of the sides and a truck-sized wooden wagon was covered with water bottles and coolers.

With the offense on one side and the defense on another end, the Owls ran drill after drill before coming together for a dual-practice at the end.

In my few years of covering high school football, I’ve never attended a football camp that’s literally on campgrounds.

What a concept.

Under my feet, I stepped on weeds and thorns as I approached the football team.

Yep, they’re roughing it.

The seven coaches ran practice like they were playing at Bulleit Stadium, and weren’t tolerating anything but optimal effort.

The hour-and-a-half session was intense, even though there wasn’t full contact.

If you missed your block, catch, pass or read you heard it from the coaches and were instructed on how to fix it.

In his third season as head coach, Josh Shattuck is thrilled with the progression the program has made from last season.

You can hear the excitement in his voice.

Shattuck now has numbers to work with, only four of 62 kids didn’t attend the camp for personal reasons.

The past two seasons he’s had to start underclassman in nearly every position due to low numbers.

Perhaps the biggest difference I saw form last year, though, was the camaraderie factor.

After each play, if someone performed correctly, a teammate came over and bumped fists or gave a low-five.

On a pick-six touchdown, the entire defense celebrated together.

There’s energy that resonates amongst the kids, they want to turn the corner and put the team back on the map.

No more hung heads, no negative body postures after a mistake.

While it’s still early, it appears this team has a new fire that could carry into the season.

Jordan Morey is The Tribune’s sports editor. Send comments to [email protected].