MOUNTAIN IRON — Thursday marked the first annual Pepper Lysaker Football Camp hosted by the Mesabi Range College football team. And according to Norse head coach Tom Inforzato, the camp was a resounding success in its first year.
Open to all players grades 7-12, the camp’s first iteration saw athletes come from all over the Iron Range, including Virginia, Mountain Iron-Buhl, Mesabi East, Hibbing, North Woods and Ely.
“It’s a way for us to connect with the community and with the local kids,” Inforzato said Thursday. “It means a lot because they get exposure to us and how we like to run things at our level and we get exposure to them as athletes and kids and how they want to get better.”
An anomaly in the area, the closest football camp for high schoolers prior to the Pepper Lysaker camp was one of the many offered at UMD. With the Norsemen seeing a resurgence in the MCAC, Inforzato said now was the perfect time to get the ball rolling on this new opportunity.
“I looked around and there aren’t many northern places that offer a football camp and I’m pretty sure there’s no one in the MCAC that is doing this either.”
The nearly 40 athletes in attendance got a chance to work on offensive and defensive skills, as well as special teams courtesy of Mesabi Range alum Connor Cusick. With offensive and defensive instruction on tap for every athlete, Inforzato noted the importance of working both sides of the ball for players on the Iron Range.
“At Mesabi, our coaches and our kids are used to just playing one position, one side of the ball. But the high schoolers around here, almost everyone plays both sides of the ball so we felt it was important for everyone to be able to do that at camp.
It’s been fun for our coaching staff too and seeing how all of us adapt and how the kids react as well going from offense to defense.”
Thursday’s weather was about as perfect as it could be. Low-to-mid 70s as well as a few clouds in the sky helped the camp come together nicely for the Mesabi Range coaching staff.
“I looked at the forecast a week ago and I was pretty worried because I saw thunderstorms, showers and things like that. So we really lucked out with this beautiful day out here.”
Once everything was squared away, the camp flowed “about as smoothly as it could,” Inforzato noted.
“We had all of our ducks in a row. It seems like we had a lot of time to prepare for it but it still snuck up on us right before the day of the camp. Along with our staff at Mesabi Range, we had a couple of other local coaches come out and they’ve all been instrumental these last few weeks getting everything organized. For my first football camp, it turned out pretty well.”
Following the warmups and individual position breakdowns, attendees got to play a fun game of three line football to wind down the day.
“It’s kind of like a reward for them at the end of the day. It’s a razzle dazzle game of football. It’s fast moving, two-hand touch. You can lateral, forward lateral, do all kinds of moves to try and score. It’s just a fun game and the kids get really into it and I know ultimately they’re here to learn and have fun.”
With four hours of instruction going on, Inforzato and his staff know that not every athlete is going to remember everything they learned on Thursday.
“The purpose was to give them a new experience and take away a couple of positive things at the end of the day. If they take a few drills and put it in their toolbox and use it later, then they’ll be better for it.
“So that’s our intention. We just wanted to get these kids out here on a beautiful day and try and get a little bit better.”
With year No. 1 in the books, Inforzato says he’s looking forward to next year’s camp and the growth it could have.
“We think we’ll be able to grow this if we keep it up every year. Hopefully these kids go home with a good experience and they tell their friends and want to come back next year. But overall, we’re very happy with how things turned out for our first year.”