FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Football is back in town with the Interior teams starting camp this week.
First up in our Training Camp series, we have the Lathrop Malemutes who are in the Division II Railbelt Conference.
Devin Fry takes us in for an inside look at the Malemutes' camp.
"The training camp for the Lathrop Malemutes is unlike any other in the Interior. Rather than the traditional 2-A-Day, 3-A-Day, or Hell Week model, the Mutes focus on building a team. They do have their one practice a day where they focus on improving on the field, but the rest of the time is spent on a variety of events such as community service, fundraising, a basketball tournament, and even field games involving water balloons and a water slide. The goal of this first week is to get the players used to eachother, and build a family atmosphere throughout the program.
Head coach Balash: "This isn't just about football. This is a lot more than just an X and Os game. There's a lot more to this game than football. The relationships and how these guys care for each other and learn to conduct themselves is really important. A lot of these three days too is just, how do we conduct ourselves as a team? How do we eat meals? How do we house together? How do we treat one-another? How do we interact with the public around us? That is really important and stuff we're doing this week."
Corbin Tomaszewski:"We're working together to build a team. And I feel the difference from what other teams do is that you go in and you're butting heads, you're playing football, you're learning to play football but you're not learning how to be a team. The cool thing about football is that you aren't just playing by yourself, it's not like other sports, you have to be able to work together perfectly and sync in order to actually play the game well. That's why I think it's pretty cool."
Last year the Malemutes secured a playoff berth after recovering from a rough start. The malemutes started their 2017 campaign with an 0-4 record before turning things around starting with a mayor's bowl win against North Pole. They then defeated their cross-town rivals West Valley 31-7 in the dog bowl to earn a playoff spot, before falling to the eventual state champion Bartlett Golden Bears. After losing only a handful of seniors this offseason, these young Malemutes are looking to make an impact.
Head coach Balash:"We're cautiously optimistic, we think if we can stay healthy and work hard and come together then we can be a championship caliber team. More importantly, these guys really love each other. We're going to have fun with the process and that's what it's always been about for us is the journey and the adventure together."
There will be plenty of new opposition for the Malemutes who, after the ASAA Re-alignment, will now be members of the Division 2 Railbelt Conference along with North Pole, West Valley, and Palmer. They will host one of their new Division 2 foes in the opening week when they host Kenai on August 11th. Until then though, the focus is on building the team.
Jaden Littell:"We all get to come together for three straight days and be together and do fun activities as a team. And not have the distraction of cell phones and internet. Even though that is pretty hard, but yeah it's a great experience. We've got a lot of people who have been together for a long time and I feel like we're going to gel pretty good together. We're already gelling right now and it can only get better from here."
A football team is a family, and the Lathrop Malemutes hope that this sense of brotherhood and pride will bring them to new heights.
This is Devin Fry reporting"