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By A.J. JANKOWSKI
Daily News Sports Editor
Not long after the Ketchikan High School football team’s season concluded last September, head coach Les Silva wanted the Kings to begin training for next season.
His plan was to give them two weeks off to recuperate before implementing a weight-training regimen.
His players had other ideas.
They wanted to get started even sooner.
"My phone started ringing a week after the season ended," Silva said. "‘Coach, can we get in the weight room? Coach, we want to get started.’"
The inquiries were music to the ears of the head coach who just had completed an 0-7 campaign with a group of largely inexperienced players.
But the coaches and players all know: If the Kings have any hopes of accumulating wins, they first needed to amass more muscle.
"We’ve been hitting the weight room — a lot," said Connor Hines, one of the team’s rising seniors. "Three times a week since last season ended."
The workout plan is three, eight-week phases, Silva said, beginning with building muscle. After that period, the Kings hit a power phase focusing on more weight and less repetition. They are near the end of the third phase — conditioning — with the season opener two months away.
"It’s helped not only with our strength, but our endurance, too," said rising senior Kage Zink. "The more muscle we build, the less likely we’ll get injured."
The new muscle will be put to a preseason test in the coming days, when 23 Kings travel south to Oregon to participate in the 2013 University of Oregon Football Camp.
The camp is the first such one Kayhi has ever attended, and will work the Kings out both individually and as a team.
It runs Sunday to Thursday, and includes live games against teams from places such as Montana, Hawaii and even American Samoa.
Led by newly appointed Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, the entire Ducks coaching staff oversees the camp.
"We try to run the Ducks offense," Silva said. "What better place to learn?"
The prospect of getting to train in Oregon’s high-tempo, Nike-centric atmosphere has some of the players brimming with enthusiasm.
"I'm a huge fan of the Ducks," Zink said. "It's just going to be great to go out on their field and see what they do and train by them."
The coaches know it’s not just a learning experience for the players.
"Oh, there’s no doubt we’ll be learning a lot as coaches," Silva said. "I’m sure there’ll be times where we go, ‘Wait, we’ve been teaching them that totally differently.’"
Part of the reason Kayhi’s never gone to such a camp — and why the Kings struggle to maintain high numbers — is cost.
But this year’s squad is dedicated to improving, and put forth the effort necessary to take those steps.
No matter the task.
"Move hot tubs. Tear down garages. Pack Christmas trees. Move furniture," said Zink, listing the ways he’s raised funds for the trip. "I mean, it's all over the place."
According to Hines, the various odd jobs around town have helped grow the brand of Kayhi football — something the program has struggled to do in years past.
"This is definitely a basketball town," Zink said. "We’ve been trying to change it to a football town for so long, but it’s really tough here."
It’s a town that loves beating Juneau-Douglas — no matter the sport. So with the Crimson Bears coming to town for the season opener Aug. 14, the Kings can go a long way toward establishing themselves with a solid performance.
This offseason has proved Kayhi is willing to do what it takes to make that happen.