A line of youngsters with a hankering for football shuffled onto the Estancia Bears gridiron late in the afternoon Aug. 6 for the return of the school’s annual youth football camp.

About 30 kids, ranging in ages from 4 to 13, took to the turf at 5 p.m. and spent nearly three hours getting hands-on instruction at the free camp. It was the school’s first youth football camp in two years after getting canceled in 2020 due to Covid-19.

“This is the most we’ve had in a while,” Estancia head football coach and athletic director Stewart Burnett said about the turnout. “This may be the most we’ve ever had.”

Estancia’s varsity players conducted the camp while the team’s coaches supervised. The campers were split up in groups by age and got opportunities at various offensive and defensive positions: throwing passes as quarterbacks; catching passes as wide receivers; taking handoffs as running backs; and blocking and tackling.

Some of the players who were running the camp participated in Estancia’s annual football camps when they were younger.

“I came to several,” Estancia senior Kody Larson said. “And now I get to give back to the kids, and it’s just awesome to see them have fun and the smiles on their faces and everything, it’s great.”

About a third of the campers were girls, including 10-year-old Kaydence Killebrew, who said the camp was “really fun.” When asked how much she enjoys football, Kaydence said, “Over 100 percent.”

“I like showing my friends what I can do,” Kaydence added about going toe-to-toe with the boys at the camp. She said the best part was “working with the football players so I can learn how to be better.”

Other campers included 10-year-old Ryan Torres, who said he’s been coming to the Bears football camps since he was about 5 years old.

Ryan wears braces on both legs due to a muscular issue, according to his mother Teresa Brasher.

“It’s super-fun,” Ryan said about the camp. When asked what his favorite part of the camp was, he said, “Everything!”

Johnathan Valencia throwing a pass while Ryan Torres and others wait their turn during the Estancia Bears youth football camp, Aug. 6. Photo by Ger Demarest.

“It’s awesome to see him with his disability out there just playing and running around with everybody else like nothing’s wrong with him, that’s the best part of it,” Teresa Brasher said.

The camp wrapped up with the kids playing 11-on-11 games, with the varsity players acting as coaches, and then everyone was treated to free hot dogs and drinks.

“I’m thrilled,” Burnett said afterward. “This is the best youth camp we’ve had in a long time.”