PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The Pierre Governors are chasing state history this year, looking to become the 2nd team ever to win 6 straight State Football titles. While talent has certainly played its role during this run, another key part to the Govs’ dominance is a tradition that started 6 years ago and has very little to do with football itself.
A tradition is something passed down over the years, and for the last 7, Pierre has built one at the Oahe Downstream Campgrounds.
“It’s kind of something that we did at my high school over in Michigan. We always went out, it was more of a team bonding experience than it was anything else,” Pierre Head Football Coach Steve Steele said.
Following their first workouts of the football season, the team packs their bags, and heads to the campgrounds for a three-day stay.
While team bonding may be the main objective, the camp out comes with plenty of hard work. As soon as they arrive to the campgrounds, the team is put through a workout by the National Guard.
“I heard that the first day sucks and then it’s football season, and so it’s held true that’s for sure,” Douglas transfer Jason Maciejczak said.
Underclassmen stay outside in tents, while seniors sleep in the air-conditioned cabin.
The team is split into three groups based on position, with each competing against each other in various activities.
“We do some fun little skits, some dances, coaches judge, it’s a fun time and we’ll get to know the kids a lot,” Senior Quarterback Lincoln Kienholz said.
“You know we’ll have yard games. We have a famous bean bag tournament that goes on where a couple of our coaches are always anxiously awaiting to defend their title and the kids are all excited for that,” Steele said.
In a world full of distractions, Downstream gives Pierre an opportunity to escape all the noise.
“There’s no hiding here. Their phones are gone, their car keys are gone and you know really for the coaches ours are pretty much gone too. You know this is a time where we really do set aside the distractions as much as we can and focus on each other,” Steele said.
It’s only strengthened the bond among teammates over the years.
“I think that’s 100 percent is what this trip is about. Building team chemistry and everyone finding out what their job is, who’s other jobs are and finding out what the team is like,” Senior Cornerback Jayden Wiebe said.
And it’s left a lasting legacy.
“You look back at senior memories on senior nights and almost everyone for the last six years has had something related to this camp. It’s always had some special memories and you know when we had the COVID year, that was the number one question on all the senior’s minds, we’re still doing Downstream, I want my year in the cabin,” Steele said.
The Pierre parents also play a big role in the camping trip as the senior moms cook dinner for the team during their first night, while the senior dads visit the camp on the final night. Pierre will open its season Saturday, August 27th at home against Aberdeen Central.