Joey Deaton | Staff Writer

From July 17-20, Dwire Field was a scene of organized chaos.

The Castner Youth Football Camp ended on Thursday with campers from kindergarten to incoming freshmen taking part in position drills, “Razzle Dazzle”, and even some of the events from the NFL combine: such as the 40 yard dash, and the broad jump.

Mason football head coach Brian Castner said his favorite parts of the week are watching the young kids compete with one another.

“Watching the kindergarten, first grade, and second-third grades playing against each other, just running around, doing everything they could possibly do to win the game, that’s the most fun,” Castner said. “Another thing I like to see is watching a kid on Monday and then watching them on Thursday and seeing how they’ve progressed. Those are two of my favorite things.”

The camp brought in speakers throughout the week, from former Mason Comets to two members of the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. Safety Clayton Fejedelem and cornerback Darqueze Dennard both spoke to campers about their story and advice as the campers go through their football careers.

Castner said the coaches install the same principles in the campers as they try to do in their varsity players.

“If you get to them early enough, hopefully they stay with you for a while and they don’t choose another sport and they understand what we have to do to be a Mason football player,” Castner said. “Our beliefs go all the way down to kindergarten. The same things we’re saying to our varsity players, we’re saying to them. We talk about the “Big Four”; we talk about the “Three Questions”. A lot of stuff is the same things we teach varsity players.”

Castner, who has been the head football coach at Mason since 2010, has seen varsity players that were once campers themselves, and said that it’s fun — but impactful — to see that development in kids.

“It’s exciting,” Castner said. “I broke down crying when (2016 graduate) Ty Sponseller was speaking on Tuesday. He said ‘I sat here in third grade and now I’m at UC’ and I had to turn away because I thought I was gonna start crying. It’s definitely good stuff; it’s exciting. And it’s just fun. It’s a lot of fun.”

The Comets won their first Division One playoff game in program history in 2016. Castner said he looks forward to seeing this year’s team put in the work to be able to make the next step in the postseason.

“I hope they answer the bell and understand that beating Elder at the end of the year last year was not what we want to do again,” Castner said. “We want to do even more. Just getting back to work, I think my favorite part with them is getting out here and running around and watching them smile and sweat and know that that prize at the end of the tunnel: it’s there.”

The Comets will take the field for the first time August 25 when they will travel north to face the Springboro Panthers.