St. Francis football starts another class of hopefuls

LA CAÑADA — When the St. Francis High freshman football team's practice concluded Wednesday evening, the sixth to eighth graders lined up for the second annual Golden Knights Youth Football Camp were waiting in the wings.

After its debut year in 2012, St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds has seen the camp's impact on his program. He estimates there were seven or eight players from St. Francis' inaugural camp at freshman football practice, which started Monday, less than an hour earlier.

"Who knows, they might have been legacies, families and this was the only place they ever wanted to come," Bonds said, "but if there was one kid that was trying to decide between here and another place and decided to come here then it was worth it."

Brevin White is one player that's still on the fence for where he'll be going to high school. The 5-foot-8 13 year old was motivated to come to the St. Francis camp for the second year in a row for two reasons.

"I just really want to get to be a better player, get the high school experience, get ready and prepared," White said. "I don't know where I'm going to go to high school yet, so I wanted to get to meet the coaching staff.

"There is [a lot of options] and there's a lot of things that play into [choosing a high school], football programs. I really like St. Francis, they've got a good football program and the coaches are good."

The incoming eighth grader hopes to play quarterback one day like his brother, Brady White, does at Hart High. One big draw to the St. Francis camp was the chance to learn under Bonds, who was a renowned signal caller at Hart before going on to play at UCLA and taking the coaching reins for the Golden Knights.

"It's really cool to get to know someone like that," White said of Bonds. "We've kind of developed a relationship where we can joke with each other. While improving my game, we know how to have a great time together, it's really fun."

When Bonds started the camp in 2012, he hoped it would help introduce junior highers to the sport and the program at St. Francis.

"We're always competing to get kids to come to our school, with other private schools and other public schools in the area, it's a business in that regard," said Bonds, who recognized seven or eight returning campers Wednesday. "We just try to show them this beautiful facility and get us to meet them and them to meet us. Hopefully we find some diamonds in the rough and they end up coming to school here."

While Bonds deemed last year's camp a success, he was a little disappointed to see a drop in campers as temperatures rose near the 90s when it kicked off. After hosting 50 campers a year ago, St. Francis had 25 on hand Wednesday. The camp ran from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday to Friday.

A drop in attendees meant more personalized attention for each player, with 10 St. Francis coaches on hand and about 10 other player-coaches as well.

Before the campers, coaches and players broke out of their introductory huddle Wednesday, Bonds told them the goal was "to simulate high school football" and prepare them for the next level. It didn't just mean physical skills, but work ethic and attitude.

"We're going to prepare you the Golden Knight way," Bonds said. "We're going to show you the way we do things."

Dietrich Riley, a former Golden Knight who now plays for UCLA, was scheduled to speak to the campers for the second year in a row Thursday. Bonds also hoped to have Travis Talianko, who graduated from St. Francis in 2011 and now plays at San Jose State, address them again Friday.

Trevor Provencio, an offensive lineman for St. Francis the past three years, said the "St. Francis way" means working hard and finishing every play strong.

"That's everything you do, not just in football, but it's a life lesson," Provencio said. "I think kids who go here realize that and take it with them wherever they go."

Fundamental skills, not just culture, were still a big part of what was being taught over the total nine hours at St. Francis. Campers were broken up by position to learn under the appropriate St. Francis coaches and players.

Starting out, the youngsters were given the fundamentals needed for their position and then the coaches expanded it as much as they could for each individual.

"I think it's different here because it's more hands-on," said Provencio, comparing the St. Francis camp to others he attended growing up. "Here we really try to teach you, really try to get you better overall as a player and a person.

"I really like just helping the kids out. It helps me remember where I was when I was younger. It makes me think if I had this help I would be even better."

While White still had a decision to make about where he'd be getting a high school education, Marcus Taylor, a 12-year-old from Altadena, already knew he wanted to wear the brown and gold.

"I want to go St. Francis, so I decided to go to the field and see what it's like," said Taylor, who will be a seventh grader next year and also attended St. Francis' camp last year. "It's been good, [the coaches and players] are really nice and I hope to see them when I go to St. Francis for high school."

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