Randy Robbins, Pilot staff writer

They came, they saw, they played football.

Hundreds upon hundreds of student athletes, their coaches, and families, all making the gridiron trek to the small seaside burg of Gold Beach.

The Gold Beach Team Football Camp (GBTFC) now in it's 21st year, is widely known as the premier prep football camp of it's kind in the United States and is run by Gold Beach High Athletic Director Kevin Swift. They played host for the last two weeks to two dozen high school football squads from locations all over the western U.S. and Canada.

Motels, restaurants and grocery stores enjoyed brisk sales as team buses rolled into town. 1,000 athletes coming to town has a way of doing that.Paul Rice, Assistant Store Manager at Ray's Food Place located just a perfectly thrown spiral away from the GBHS athletic fields was all smiles Monday afternoon. Scanning the athletic fields populated with tents next door to his store, Rice says of the camp, "This is huge! We (Ray's) have come to rely on the football camp business that comes each year. It's a real shot in the arm for the entire community."

The Dairy Queen and Subway fast food outlets were jammed with lines of hungry players sporting colorful team jerseys from 1A all the way up to 6A schools.

According to the GBTFC website, Session 1 had teams from Newport, Summit, Mazama, Chiloquin, Bend, Modesto, Lassen, Yreka, Del Norte, Lost River, Hidden Valley and Penninsula.

Session 2 culminates a week of team building, weight lifting, and physical competitions this evening with the 7 p.m. highlight open to the public known as the "Battle on the Beach," where all-star teams join forces to scrimmage in a giant two-team format. This year's battle features Thurston, St. Paul, Aloha, South Medford, Ponderosa, Capital, Harrisburg, North Salem, Phoenix, Ashland, Mount Boucherie, Winters, and host Gold Beach.

Jason Tenner, head football coach for Ponderosa High located near Sacramento, California, was complimentary of the camp.

"This is a well run camp and we come back each year because of the competition that comes here," he said. Taking off an Hawaiian-style straw hat and rubbing his shaved head Tenner continues, "It (the camp) gives us a good gauge as to where we are at and what we need to improve on. It really is the highlight of our year!" Grinning he adds, "It doesn't hurt that it is 60 degrees here and Sacramento is 105 right now. Perfect weather!"

Kevin Swift, longtime GBFTC coordinator had precisely that in mind when he envisioned expanding the camp from his predecessor, Roger Vandesant, to bring teams to a beautiful location on the Oregon coast where those prep programs could work together on the items that mattered the most to them and have the independence to pick and choose what would give their clubs the most bang for their buck.

Three South Medford players, Jahan Kahusi, Kevin Laupola and Foley Wheeler headed toward the indoor Gold Beach basketball courts which were transformed into a temporary staging area of tents, hanging socks, and sleeping bags.

It's their third year coming to camp and they say it's been beneficial to what these big city players want to achieve.

"Our coaches have a lot of freedom to do what they want here," said Kahusi, who plays center and defensive end.

"We get to live together for five days and you get to know each other pretty well. You learn to rely on each other," said Wheeler who likes the team-building aspects the camp offers.

The Medford trio acknowledges that schools in their league, such as Sheldon, will be tough.

"We scrimmaged Capitol, another big athletic team here at camp, as a way to prepare for Sheldon," said Kahusi.

The players also said they liked being "treated like adults" and to be able to have the freedom to shop locally.

"We appreciate being trusted to behave and to see what it is like to be in the real world as young men out on our own,to a certain degree," said Wheeler.

First year Gold Beach head football coach Justin Storns watches his team as junior varsity coach Michael Becker puts his players out on the field for a quick scrimmage against St. Paul.

"We are about as far along as we can be at this point of the year. It's still June," said Storns. "But we scrimmaged a couple of teams pretty well, so we'll see how it goes."