‘Good far outweighs the bad’

In Las Vegas, Quyntyn was a self-described “gangster,” convicted of grand larceny for stealing a car.

But at the picturesque Spring Mountain Youth Camp — situated 8,470 feet above Sin City, at Angels Peak in the Mount Charleston Recreational/Toiyabe National Forest Area — he is captain of the Golden Eagles’ football team and a respected student-athlete at Spring Mountain High School.

After five months of taking classes, attending counseling sessions and learning life skills at the camp — which houses 100 juvenile delinquent males, ages 12 to 18, who must complete an average stay of six months as part of their probation — Quyntyn, a sophomore who was allowed to use only his first name for this article, has a new outlook on life and a fresh game plan for the future.

“I want to do better in school and try to play football for Palo Verde when I get down there,” he said. “I’m going to get a job with one of my mom’s friends until I get my GED and then try to go back to school.”

Quyntyn, who like most boys at the camp is playing an organized sport for the first time, is a running back and linebacker for the Eagles (4-4) and leads the team in tackles, averaging more than 10 per game.

He had 12 tackles in Spring Mountain’s 52-14 home rout of Round Mountain on Saturday at the camp’s pristine artificial turf field, which was built for close to $500,000 two years ago by an anonymous donor.

Quyntyn said the team’s coaching staff has taught him he can be a productive member of society instead of a “thug.”

“It teaches us how to live life in a positive way and to be disciplined,” he said. “I’ve learned how to keep myself calm and to control my anger.”

Some of those life skills were on display in Saturday’s game, which, as expected, included undisciplined play and a half-dozen personal fouls. The surprising part is that Round Mountain was the team penalized for late hits and unsportsmanlike conduct, as Spring Mountain’s players refrained from retaliation.

The Eagles, who play eight-man football and compete in Class 1A, also have to endure hecklers and racial taunts on the road, camp staff members said. It helps that football gives the players an outlet for their emotions.

“We get a lot of kids with aggressive tendencies, and football allows them to channel that in a positive way,” said camp manager Dave DeMarco, who has worked at SMYC for more than 34 years.

DeMarco said the camp gives kids an opportunity to escape the issues with which they’re dealing in the community, such as problems with drugs, alcohol and gangs.

“We try to provide the youth with as many positive experiences as we can,” he said. “We let them experience an option to a lot of the behavior they’ve exhibited in town and try to teach them some positive ways to deal with situations and change their outlook on life.”

The camp, which opened in 1970, also offers basketball, baseball, wrestling and track, which won the state title last year and is a perennial 1A power.

One former Spring Mountain football player went on to lead Division II in rushing at Southern Utah in the early 1990s, another started at linebacker for Cimarron-Memorial during back-to-back state champion seasons, and another started for Western last year. Coach Marco Rafalovich also said Quyntyn and running back Donovan Adamson, who rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, have the ability to play for 4A schools in Las Vegas.

Such players are the exception to the rule, although athletic director Terry Reeves estimated more than 80 percent of the boys who come through the camp complete the program successfully, along with six months of probation after they’re released without being adjudicated.

Rafalovich, in his fourth year at the camp, said a player from each of his first two teams was killed. One was a former gang member who was shot in his car at a 7-Eleven on the corner of Bonanza and Eastern, and a co-worker stabbed and killed another who worked as a security guard at a car dealership after an argument.

DeMarco said he has seen “lots of good things and lots of ugly things” over the years, but that the “good far outweighs the bad.”

Reeves said he often encounters camp alumni in the community and “they’re always happy to see you.” He said he received a call about a week ago from a former football player who had served two stints at the camp and is now 23 and working at Wal-Mart.

“He said if it wasn’t for Spring Mountain, he would be in prison,” said Reeves, who has worked at the camp for 18 years. “Unfortunately, a lot of them make it there from here.”

Family support plays a key role in a boy’s success or failure once he leaves the camp. Only a handful of parents attended Saturday’s game, including Vivian Glenn, whose son Domingo had a sack.

“I don’t think he’ll be making the same mistakes he made to get in here once he gets out,” Glenn said. “He’s learned discipline and teamwork. He has manners now and is respectful and polite.

“He’s not going to associate with the old crowd (when he’s released). He has other things to do besides get into trouble now.”

Adamson, who plans to finish high school and aspires to play college football for Georgia Tech, said he’ll use skills learned in a class about resisting peer pressure when he’s released.

“I just have to remember that skill and abide by it,” he said. “I’ll look at the person using a calm voice and tone, thank the person for including me, explain I don’t want to participate and offer another activity.”

Playing football would be an excellent choice.

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