Excitement, hope for normalcy as Ketcham football opens preseason camp

WAPPINGERS FALLS – Even as he stood in the afternoon downpour, Eric Nunez couldn’t help but smile and look for the positives.

As the rain persisted on Monday, Nunez called the weather a “blessing”, believing he preferred it to be drenched in sweat, as it would have been on a typical August day.

However, his morale was already high, as he and his teammates had reason to be in the rain. It was a stark and welcome contrast to a year ago at that time, when school sports were still in limbo amid the pandemic, and there were questions about whether football was really doable.

Roy C. Ketcham's Sean Camacho performs at Monday's training camp in Wappingers Falls on August 23, 2021.

“I was worried it would ruin my entire career,” said Nunez, a senior with the Roy C. Ketcham high school football team. “I was like, ‘If we don’t have a season, I won’t have a film to send to universities.’ I was so stressed out thinking about my future.

Therefore, there was little the rain could do to change its sunny disposition as Ketcham was part of the Hudson Valley schools to begin its fall sports preseason, offering another indication of the steps towards normalcy. .

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“I could barely sleep last night,” said teammate Jonathan Capo. “I was just excited over the weekend thinking about today.”

Even head coach Bryan Hogan was stunned, enthusiastically demonstrating drills and, at one point, even lifting a player off the ground.

John Capo of Roy C. Ketcham discusses a play with a teammate during Monday's training camp in Wappingers Falls on August 23, 2021.

“We were waiting for this and everyone started munching,” Hogan said. “We had our spring season and were happy to have it, but that’s what we’re used to. We have double sessions, a pre-season, being together. That’s what it’s supposed to feel.

The decision to proceed with fall sports – especially those considered “high risk” for COVID-19 transmission – was left to local government officials and, last week, the health department of the Dutchess County gave his blessing.

So, during the flood, Ketcham performed 7v7 passing drills, worked on tackling techniques, block elimination, backpedaling, etc. And it all looked like it would have been in 2019, what athletes and coaches have been striving for since last year.

Local districts have demanded that the masks be worn indoors, but they can be removed in the field outside. The emphasis is on hygiene and equipment cleaning, but little has come out of the norm.

Roy C. Ketcham head coach Bryan Hogan watches his players exercise during Monday's training camp in Wappingers Falls on August 23, 2021.

“I am happy that we have the support of the Department of Health,” Hogan said. “Thanks to the research and experience we know, even though the spread of COVID is high in Dutchess, it has not spread at a higher rate in sports. I’m glad we don’t take that away from the kids.

Football has been delayed until last spring, given permission for a truncated six-week season that began in March, but without the usual offseason training and preseason camp . The people involved then said, in essence, that it was better than nothing. But the return of the fall season and the summer preparation work allows players to get back to a routine they’ve known and just focus on improving.

“I’ve studied filmmaking a lot and there’s a lot of stuff I want to work on like covering the men,” said Capo, a defensive back. “Plus, I have to be a leader. Last (season) I wasn’t as a leader as I should have been, so I know I have to be more vocal and more encouraging.

A rainstorm did not stop Roy C. Ketcham football training camp in Wappingers Falls on August 23, 2021.

Capo is one of a squad of 24 seniors on this list, but Ketcham has graduated several key players. They will have to “fill in some gaps and find answers,” Hogan said.

Ketcham, after making the playoffs two years ago, recorded a 1-4 record in the spring. The team faltered early on and, Nunez said, their struggles were made worse by each person “trying to be a hero and doing too much.”

“We have to be on the same page and realize that no one can do it all on their own,” he said. “But I believe in us because I know the heart is there and we are dedicated. It’s just a matter of execution.

Nunez should be one of the stars of Ketcham – figuratively and literally. The left tackle is 6-foot-7, 315 pounds and said he spent the offseason working on his conditioning, footwork and hand placement in blocking passes. He will anchor the offensive line, with center Johnny Gonzalez.

Roy C. Ketcham's offensive coordinator Mike Bianco gives instructions to Eric Nunez during Monday's training camp in Wappingers Falls on August 23, 2021.

Capo, a playmaker with good instinct and a good ball, will lead the defense alongside defensive back Gavin McLaughlin and defensive end John Scampoli.

Before Owens didn’t play much last season, behind two star backs, but he “has so much talent and potential,” Hogan said. Ketcham also returns to starting quarterback Sean Camacho, an athletic double threat

“Last year around this time I was definitely not happy,” Capo said. “Obviously there was a lot going on and it wasn’t a good time. I prayed a lot and tried to stay positive. I was hoping we would have some sort of season last year, and I was hoping that by my last year we could have a normal season.

So far, so good.

Stephen Haynes: [email protected], 845-437-4826, Twitter: @ StephenHaynes4

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