SOMERS, N.Y. — Players from the Valhalla Vikings youth football program joined more than 75 campers in the early summer heat and humidity last week in an effort to improve their skills at the 37th Annual Block & Tackle Football Camp at Somers High School.
“The first week of summer vacation means no school, days at the pool, rest and relaxation,” said Valhalla Vikings spokesperson Bill McGuinn. Seventy-five boys from across the county, including about eight boys from Westlake and Valhalla, went through a week of training that most of us would describe as hellacious — but the boys described it as “awesome, outstanding and pure fun.”
The Block & Tackle camp is run by Somers High football coach Tony DeMatteo — the winningest coach in the history of Section I, with 292 victories — and his nephew Dan DeMatteo, coach at Gorton High School in Yonkers. Former Yorktown High School head football coach Ron Santavicca, who led two state championship teams, and Section I Football Chairman and Sleepy Hollow Athletic Director Chuck Scarpulla added their expertise to the camp.
“For the Valhalla and Westlake players, this was chance to study football under the equivalent of the faculty from Harvard,” McGuinn said of the coaches. “The camp’s philosophy is straightforward: Treat the boys like young men on a high school varsity team, and they will meet those expectations.”
Each camper was given equipment and a locker and told arrive at 8:45 a.m. and be on the field, ready to go, at 9. From there, it was warm-up drills, then stations teaching proper form (no head) tackling and blocking. This was followed by position-specific instruction and skill development, then team-on-team live scrimmages. Lunch was served in the dining hall, with each boy expected to clean up after himself.
The campers received a surprise visit from New York Giants and Super Bowl champion defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy, who played for Tony DeMatteo at Roosevelt High School in the 1990s. They stressed three priorities, in order of importance: family, school and then football. Kennedy delighted the campers by showing them his Super Bowl ring.
“Throughout the week, to combat the heat, water breaks were regular and mandatory,” McGuinn said. “The boys would periodically remove their helmets and shoulder pads and they would all be hosed down. As camp closed on Friday and the temperature on the turf was in the high 90s, 75 happy, boisterous young men headed off to join their nonfootball-playing peers for days of no school, swimming pools, rest and relaxation.”
From a report by Bill McGuinn/Valhalla Vikings.