CAMDEN GETS PHYSICAL
Coach Jeff Herron’s Wildcats are proving Darwin’s theory that the fittest, and strongest, shall survive
By Kim Goss
Published: Spring 2002
Passing is for cowards!” is one of the favorite sayings among football teams that emphasize the running game. Although this slogan is a bit extreme, it might be an appropriate one to put on the
T-shirts of the football players at Camden County High School in Kingsland, Georgia. “When you pass the ball sometimes you don’t have to be as physical because you can rely on skills and finesse, but that’s not how we win games down here,” says head coach Jeff Herron. “In the South you’ve got to be able to run the ball, and in the playoffs you’ve got to be able to do it in bad weather and mud. Being able to run the ball, which translates into being a physical team that is stronger than your opponents, is one of the keys to developing a winning football team.” Apparently, Herron knows what he’s talking about. He led his team to a 10-0 record this year, its first undefeated season since 1984, and an appearance in the playoffs.
To possess the type of strength to execute the run effectively, Herron has been a big believer in BFS core lifts such as the squat and bench press. But the one lift he emphasizes more than any other for football is the power clean. “I concluded a long time ago that the power clean is the best indicator of overall strength,” says Herron. “Some kids who bench or squat well may not actually be very athletic, but a kid who can excel in the power clean usually has a good combination of strength and speed. Of course, we squat and bench like everybody else, but the power clean is certainly a lift we emphasize.” That emphasis has led to some impressive accomplishments for his athletes in the weightroom.
Last season Herron saw 53 of his athletes power clean 225 pounds. Of those, 21 did 250, 13 did 275, 4 did 300, and senior Brian Crum topped the team with 320 pounds at a bodyweight of 215 pounds. Crum, who Herron says is the player all the college recruiters are coming to see, is a tight end/defensive back who runs a 4.4 forty and excels in academics. Pound for pound, one of the most impressive lifts was made by Oscar Patterson, a receiver/defensive back who power cleaned 250 at a bodyweight of only 140 pounds.
One of the big motivators for Herron’s athletes to excel in the power clean was news that Washington County High School in Sandersville, Georgia, had achieved national records in the lift for having 34 players lift 225 pounds and 16 players lift 250 pounds. “Washington County has had a very good program for many years, and I saw an article from their local paper that said they had set this record in the power clean, a Bigger Faster Stronger record. I told our kids about it in the summer.” Although Herron thought his athletes could break Washington County’s records in the pre-season, he decided to wait until the middle of the season for his team to try it. “We were convinced we could do it, but we wanted the players to stay motivated and continue lifting hard during the season.” Proving that it doesn’t hurt to lift in season, they broke the record on October 3, a Wednesday, and won a game two days later.
The Herron Effect
This is Herron’s second year at Camden. For the previous three years he was head coach at Oconee, leading the Warriors to a 15-0 record and the Class 3A state championships. “I had accomplished everything I wanted at Oconee by winning a state championship. I was looking for a new challenge.” Camden, a 5A program, had exactly what Herron was looking for. “South Georgia has always been a football hotbed-the people here really love their football. Camden has a huge stadium and fan support, and I really felt good about the school administration’s commitment to football. Football is a big deal here, and that was certainly a deciding factor in my decision to come to Camden.”
In his first year at Camden, Herron led the team to an 8-3 record and its first sub-region championship in five years. But his expectations this year were higher. “We were fairly young my first year, so our emphasis was to improve upon last year - and we certainly did that. We were 10-0 this year, which was a tremendous accomplishments for our kids.” Next year, Herron says he wants Camden to go further in the playoffs and establish a reputation as one of the best teams in the state.
As for the X’s and O’s, Herron implemented many changes to the offense and defense. “We changed from a passing to more of a running team,” using the Wing-T offense he learned from the University of Delaware, and developed more physical defensive schemes. “We implemented a tremendous number of changes, which maybe hurt us a little last year, but the kids were very good about accepting what we were trying to do. Certainly we got better, and next year we expect to improve even more next year. The longer you play, the more important your strength program becomes.”
One special way Herron helps motivate his players is to offer a football camp in the summer. The players go to Epworth by the Seas on St. Simmons Island, a Christian retreat in southeast Georgia on the banks of the historic Frederica River. “It’s basically a church camp,” says Herron. “We took the kids there to get them away from the town and get a chance to bond as a team. We still work them hard on the field, but there are a lot of fun activities and the kids really get to know each other.”
In the weightroom, Herron follows a BFS program. Because of the technical nature and importance of the power clean to his program, Herron insists on having his athletes learn the lift as soon as they enter his program, and he even encourages athletes at the middle school level to learn it. “We have the BFS training plates so the bar sits up there where it’s supposed to, and we videotape them performing the lift,” says Herron. “We really emphasize technique with young athletes; we don’t try to put too much weight on them. I’ve got some great assistant coaches, and they’re very good at teaching the lift. Our program is also about kids helping kids too-those who perform the lift well help teach.”
With his proven football coaching system and a BFS strength training program in place, Herron is set to achieve his ultimate goal of winning a state championship. Although the team may not break many passing records in the process, when it comes to football strength, Herron’s players are the fittest ‘cats around.
“We have the BFS training plates so the bar sits up there where it’s supposed to, and we videotape them performing the lift,” says Herron. “We really emphasize technique with young athletes.”