By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
STEVENSVILLE — Nathan Ceawood didn’t know what to think when a firefighter handed him a firehose Thursday night.
The Lincoln Township Fire Department had set up a course with five different activity stations across Al Stockman Stadium’s turf to give 96 student athletes an opportunity to train like a firefighter.
Ceawood wasn’t the only one who put in a workout as the Lakeshore Football varsity and junior varsity teams were busy running through the strenuous course.
“I didn’t know what we were getting into,” said Ceawood, a senior fullback and safety. “We have some competitions like individual lines when we warm up, but nothing like this.”
Lakeshore varsity head coach Bryan Keim said he kept the competition a secret until the fire department pulled up the day of the workout.
The competition included five captains who were chosen by team vote. After that, each captain drafted their own team from both Lakeshore rosters.
“Our booster president had an idea about getting the local fire department involved, so we met and turned it into this combat challenge,” Keim said. “Now the fire department wants to do this as a yearly thing.”
Each player was cycled through all five stations, where they were individually timed before each team score was added together. The winner was given free Dairy Queen ice cream.
Players carried packs loaded with firehose up the stadium steps to the press box before coming back down. The second course forced them to raise rolls of firehose from the ground to the top of the stadium by rope. Others started at the station where they used sledgehammers to hit tires repeatedly before walking over a ladder with more rolled-up hoses.
Players also pulled a hose line charged with water a few yards and sprayed water at a target. Lastly, players dragged a 140-pound dummy half the length of the football field. This, Ceawood said, was the toughest portion.
LTFD firefighters were on the field monitoring and helping players at each station. Firefighters were paired with each team, where they took their group of players to each station and explained the timing and procedures.
Among those firefighters was Brandon Chiarello, who is taking part in the Scott Firefighting Challenge on Aug. 21 – a challenging course for firefighters nationwide that is similar to the one players went through Thursday.
For Chiarello, who is among the five of six firefighters that graduated from Lakeshore, returning to the football field was special.
“Playing football here I was always hands-on. We wanted (the course) to push them,” he said. “I thought this was a great opportunity to get them involved. Some of them might want to go into firefighting. This is a great way to show them what we do and how we interact.”
It wasn’t just Chiarello, who was glad LTFD stepped foot on the field.
Senior linebacker Drew Bell said he was elated when he discovered the LTFD would be involved.
“I like the sense of community we have out here,” Bell said. “It’s great to have them out here. I remember when we went to regionals, the fire trucks led us out to the highway when we were driving away to Vicksburg.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 31, 2015)