From left, Dell Crosby, Jordan Hill, Connor Littleton and Cole Hansen work their way away from the mud pit in the middle of the tug-o-war challenge at the Big Uglies competition at Panther Stadium this past week.
Surrounded by a sea of people, Jordan Hill, an upcoming junior at Derby High School and right offensive guard on the varsity football team, was doing all he could to keep out of a pit of muddy water.
Hill and three of his fellow linemen tried to stay dry, but like most teams, ended up taking a dip in the pool of water after losing near the finals of the tug-o-war contest that highlighted Derby’s annual Big Uglies and seven-on-seven football tournament at Panther Stadium this past Saturday.
“It’s a lot of fun and we take a lot of pride in taking that trophy home and the bragging rights that go with it,” Hill said. “I think we had a pretty good day in this competition, and when the season rolls around I think we’ll go pretty far.”
The Big Uglies competition gave linemen, often a thankless position in football, a chance to showcase their athletic abilities. The competition featured a bevy of events from bench pressing and an obstacle course to team exercises like a sled push and the tug-o-war. Results were tallied for each of the six events and the winning team took home a trophy.
“I tell coaches coming in, the best part of this is the stuff the linemen do,” Derby head coach Brandon Clark said. “We can go to a seven-on-seven tournament every weekend if we wanted to. There’s really nothing for linemen. This is something they can compete in and get the juices flowing and build some team camaraderie.”
Big Uglies has continued to grow over the recent years with 30 schools competing on Saturday, said Clark. Derby had five linemen teams alone.
“We expect it every year to get bigger, and it has,” Clark said. “Last year was the first year we made it free, and it doubled. This year it doubled again.”
Skill positions, like quarterbacks and receivers, took part in the seven-on-seven tournament, which Derby won. Even though it gives coaches an opportunity to size up their competition and get a summer peek at teams they will likely see in the fall, Clark said he uses it to judge which of his players have the will to win. A winning mindset was something Clark had to instill in the program when he took over as head coach.
“The most we put into this is teambuilding and seeing which kids want to win. We are going to play the kids that want to compete and win,” Clark said. “If we’re going to do anything, we are in it to win it. If it’s in the weight room or out here on the seven-on-seven field, our kids now want that.”
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