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CAMP FISHKILL 2004 THE TRADITION CONTINUES

Posted Sunday, August 13, 2006 by Greg Sarra Newsday

BY GREGG SARRA
NEWSDAY STAFF CORRESPONDENT

September 5, 2004

FISHKILL, N.Y. - A bright sun beats on Sachem North High School's Jeff Weber as he makes his way up Mount Misery. The steep incline is a rugged challenge for the 6-5, 310-pound lineman. It's a cool morning with temperatures in the mid-70s for this daily conditioning workout.
The mountain breeze does nothing to help the shirtless Weber forget the burn in his quadriceps. Halfway up the hill, Weber slows to a walk and stops. It's only the sixth of 12 sprints to the summit. "This hill has broken many players before him," Sachem coach Dave Falco said. "But this is part of the mental test that helps them build character and confidence. Most guys find the determination to finish and if they don't, the others try and help them find it. "Weber's teammates exhort him to push himself to the limit. He grinds out the final yardage. It didn't matter how he got there, it's the end result that counts. In the end Weber makes it up the hill with the help of his teamates. This is camp the Sachem way. It is one of the few school districts that elected to continue its camp after last year's Mepham camp scandal in which players were hazed, coaches fired and the courts left to sift through the rubble.
There were major changes at Sachem this year as the district split into two high schools, North and East.Coaches and players at the new East High School were busy attending orientation and getting to know the building to find their classrooms. While they practiced at home in Farmingville, the North squad headed to Fishkill.Additional security was noticeable at camp and a power-point presentation prior to departure educated and addressed questions parents may have had."Camp at the Fresh Air Fund in Fishkill has been a Sachem tradition for 21 years," said Falco, who first attended camp in Fishkill as a player in 1983. "This is where we find out if we have what it takes to carry this tradition. I didn't want a break from tradition by not coming to camp. The JV team attends the camp but has shorter practices and less conditioning. We have 13 cabins of players and two houses for the coaches."Falco puts the Varsity North squad through its arduous camp rituals.There is conditioning every morning at 5:45 a.m. Breakfast is served by the players at 7 a.m. Practice in full pads runs from 8 a.m. through 11 a.m., followed by sprints on Mount Misery.After lunch, the team reports for practice in full gear between 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., followed by a half hour of pool time."No one has any energy to fool around in the pool," Falco said. "So it's more therapeutic and relaxing than anything."Players rotate as the servers for dinner and clean up at 5:15 p.m., followed by a light practice from 6:30-7:45 p.m."After the last practice, we have individual and staff meetings," Falco said. "Lights out at 10 p.m. sharp."Two security officers, who sleep all day, patrol the grounds at night. No one will feel sorry for the players at either school - North or East - especially the competition in Suffolk's Division I. and Falco pounds that point home. North practiced three times a day with little down time. There were no cell phones, no laptop computers, no television, no radios and there wasn't even electricity in the cabins."This is a business trip," said Falco, who helped pack a huge box truck for the trip. The team loaded everything, including portable goalposts, tackling and position dummies, blocking sleds, metal chutes for linemen and the entire coach's office, including video equipment. "It's a huge undertaking. You don't just pick up and go."
On Wednesday, the team jogged its way up Champion Mountain. It is the final test of a grueling week. The silence of the early morning was shattered by the group, which sang the school's fight song as it pounded its way upward. A woodchuck popped its head out of the brush and then scurried for cover.
"It's a week to build spirit and camaraderie," Falco said. "This was an extremely tough camp that became a mental roller coaster. I had the benefit of being with them all day and if I ever needed to get to know some of the younger players - this was the most important season."

Copyright 2 2004, Newsday, Inc.

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