Sun Devils Break Camp

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The hills were alive with the sounds of rapid Sun Devil football fans.

That was the scene Saturday morning at Camp Tontozona where the Arizona State University football team wrapped up preseason practices with a scrimmage attended by about 4,000 devils disciples.

Among the enthusiastic onlookers were the Rim Country Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade teams who donned their purple playing jerseys for the gridiron occasion.

"We had a blast," Maverick coach Ned Schall said. "The players were very friendly to the kids ... gave them autographs and talked to them."

Also in attendance was a group of Sun Angel boosters who earlier in the week locked horns in a two-day benefit golf tournament played at Chaparral Pines and the Rim Club.

The Sun Devils' stay at Tontozona took on a much different look than the boot camp-like sessions conducted by Hall of Fame coach Frank Kush.

In the '60s and '70s, Kush a strict disciplinary, no-nonsense coach at ASU put his charges through rugged two-week camps that had some players clamoring to return to the friendly confines of Tempe.

Coaches corrected mental mistakes by exhorting players to engage in exhausting runs up Mount Kush just south of the Tontozona field across Tonto Creek.

This year, new ASU coach Dirk Koetter shortened the Sun Devils stay at Tontozona to six days. At midweek, Koetter gave the team a break from the two-a-day drills by taking them into Payson for a movie and an afternoon swim in Taylor Pool.

The evening prior, the team dined at Fargo's Restaurant in Payson.

ASU officials also brought in several air-conditioned mobile housing units to replace the rustic Tontozona dormitories former ASU players called home.

If there was a disappointing note to Saturday's 90-minute intrasquad scrimmage, it was that onlookers didn't have the opportunity to see the Devils' one-two punch at running back.

Both Delvon Flowers and Tom Pace who some predict will be among the best in the Pac-10 sat out with injuries.

Without the pair in the lineup, most eyes were focused on quarterback where Koetter has yet to name a starter. Former walk-on Jeff Krohn, who started at signal caller much of last season, appears to have the edge over junior Matt Cooper, redshirt freshman Andrew Walter and true freshman Chad Christenson.

Krohn completed 7 of 11 passes for 130 yards.

Following the scrimmage, many of the Valley ASU fans retired to local waterin' holes where they mulled over the prospect of the team rebounding from three disappointing seasons under former coach Bruce Snyder.

The players boarded busses for the return trip to Tempe and the start of classes on the ASU campus Monday.

The team didn't practice Monday, but returns to evening sessions today in preparation for the Sept. 8 season opener in Sun Devil Stadium against San Diego State.

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