Gridiron hibernation is over — the smell of pigskin will soon waft through the Rim Country summer air.
It occurs July 16 to July 20 when six teams and about 500 aspiring high school football players converge on Payson for the Fourth Annual Preseason Football Camp.
Coolidge, Red Mountain, Yuma Kofa, Glendale Independence and Desert Edge will participate.
Payson, however, will not participate, opting instead to hold a team camp prior to the onset of preseason training on Aug. 1.
The PHS athletes will compete in the evening passing league sessions.
During the course of the five-day stay, the players will reside in Wilson Dome and classrooms with each high school team setting up its own residential site.
Players bring sleeping bags, cots, air mattresses, sheets, pillows and other personal items from home.
During the week, Wilson Dome will more resemble a giant disheveled bedroom than a basketball and wrestling facility.
Being teenagers, the players also bring along boom boxes, video games, personal televisions, MP3 players, PlayStations and iPads to entertain themselves during down time.
One of the biggest challenges first-year PHS football coach Jake Swartwood faces in hosting the camp is keeping the hungry players well fed and nourished.
Some players consume as many as 3,500 calories a day, but coaches insist much of those will be protein.
Swartwood is continuing to iron out the details of providing food and nutrition for campers, saying he can go with those who operate the high school cafeteria or contract with a local restaurant.
The problem he currently faces is that former coach Byron Quinlan was originally expected to head the camp, but those duties were turned over in early June to his successor Graham Ellison.
When Ellison resigned last week, Swartwood inherited the camp director’s job and is trying to figure out what details need ironing out, including acquiring food service.
“If either (Quinlan or Ellison) has already contracted (a food provider), I want to honor that,” he said.
After housing and food arrangements have been settled on, Swartwood and his staff will sit down to schedule passing league games, shower schedules and meal times.
Passing league, which are 7 on 7, will be played during the evening under the lights at PHS and Rumsey.
Swartwood also anticipates some linemen challenges will be held.
Another obstacle Swartwood must overcome is the use of a weight room.
At previous camps, the weight room in old PHS gym was used and was of sufficient size and equipment for a full team.
But with construction under way on the gym’s roof, the weight room is not available. Which means campers could be restricted to the small and inadequate facility in Wilson Dome.
“It’s not big enough, so we have a problem,” Swartwood said.
Plans for two-a-day practices at camp will be left up to each team’s head coach and will be held on the PHS field and at Rumsey Park.
Arizona Interscholastic Association regulations restrict what may be done during camp week.
For example, there is no contact and pads cannot be worn.
During the camp sessions, coaches traditionally stress fundamentals hoping those will be mastered before preseason practices kick off in earnest during early August.
If the basics are in place, coaches can use preseason to focus on installing offenses, defenses and special teams, which renders camp a wise use of training time.