INDIANTOWN GAP - McCaskey’s football team had spent the last 10 minutes crawling in the grass, sweating and grunting, but now the energy seemed to be flagging.

Understandably. This wasn’t a scrimmage or even practice. It was a Friday spent leadership training with the Pennsylvania National Guard.

This drill involved the entire squad, about 60 players, in a single line, in push-up position, but with butts lifted up so that each body formed an upside-down V.

The player on the left end of the line was directed to drop down and crawl through the tunnel formed by his teammates. And the next player, and the player after that, until all 60 of them were through the tunnel, out the other side, and back in V formation.

Some of the Red Tornadoes weigh around 300 pounds, some half that. As such, some parts of the tunnel weren’t roomy. The late morning weather, at the Leadership Training Center (LRC) at Fort Indiantown Gap, was brutally hot and humid.

Nobody was quitting, but a lot of people were dragging.

“Who’s got my back?’’ senior lineman Thyago Alvarez suddenly bellowed.

“I’ve got your back!” came the sharp response from his teammates.

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The Tornado players participated in the Leadership Reaction Course at FTIG to help Coach Sam London identify the natural leaders on the football team. The course involves small groups of players rotating through stations where they have to figure out a way to complete the task given with only the props available. Friday, August 16, 2019

Again: “Who’s got my back? …. I’ve got your back!”

And again. Over and over, louder and louder. The Tornado pushed each other across the finish line.

Sam London, McCaskey’s new head coach, knew he had gotten when he came for.

“When I heard that, I got a little emotional,’’ he said. “I had to step away for a minute.’’

McCaskey went 1-9 last year, 0-6 in Lancaster-Lebanon League Section One.

“When things went bad, they didn’t manage it,’’ said London, based on his film study of last season’s games. “I mean, if they were down 14-0, it felt like it was 60-0. When there’s adversity, you’ve got to find a way to get through it together.’’

McCaskey was offered the training by Sgt. Jason Miller, who recruits for the National Guard at McCaskey.

London, who spent six years in the Air Force, jumped at it. He had named one team captain before Wednesday, wide receiver/defensive back Jovan Rodriguez.

“I came into this thinking (more captains) might announce themselves,’’ he said.

The bulk of the LRC is a large structure divided by walls into open-air rooms. The players, divided into small groups, rotated through the rooms and engaged in problem-solving exercises such as the following:

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Players rush to line up. The Tornado players participated in the Leadership Reaction Course at FTIG to help Coach Sam London identify the natural leaders on the football team. The course involves small groups of players rotating through stations where they have to figure out a way to complete the task given with only the props available. Friday, August 16, 2019

“You are an ammunition detail taking an air-dropped can of ammunition to a firing position on the other side of a river (the floor). You must get yourselves and your ammunition across the river (floor). Nothing may be floated across. There are two six-inch pipes firmly fixed in a concrete pier. You have one short plank, one long plank and a piece of rope. You may not go around the obstacle or allow any equipment to touch the water.’’

One challenge involved hauling a heavy barrel and every member of the group over a steep, slippery wooden slope and then down the other side. It was more involved than it sounds. Early on, groups struggled to do it in a minute. By the end of the day, one group pulled it off in 18 seconds.

“Not all of us are close friends yet,’’ Rodriguez said. “It was nice to see guys work together with guys they haven’t really been around before.’’

The chants - “Who’s got my back?, and “Who’s got the juice?” originally came from London.

“When I first got here,’’ he said, “I had to be the firecracker. Now I don’t have to say a word.’’

After the “tunnel,’’ drill, Master Sgt. Gabe Sweger told the squad, “I’ve seen adults, tough people, break down during that. You guys didn’t. Great job.’’

“This was tremendous,’’ London said. “We’re going to do this every year.’’