Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Coaches have learned afternoon heat, football don’t mix well
Before his first game as a head coach Saturday, South Oak Cliff’s Emmett Jones tried to prepare for everything. The former Skyline offensive coordinator talked to friends who were head coaches and got their advice.
“I was calling them 24-7,” he said, “just grilling them about what to expect.”
One thing he never expected, however, was for players to say they felt like they were playing on a grill. That’s how it felt Saturday as South Oak Cliff and Arlington Seguin kicked off at Lancaster’s Beverly D. Humphrey Stadium during the peak heat of a 99-degree day.
“The kids were complaining a little that their feet were burning on the turf,” Jones said.
As weird as that might sound, it’s not uncommon. Artificial turf, like that at Humphrey Stadium, soaks up a lot more heat than natural grass. It’s not easy to play on it when air temperatures are near the century mark.
Actually, it’s not easy to play football on any surface in the afternoon heat of summer. And fortunately, most coaches have decided that it’s best not to see what Mother Nature can dish out on the season’s first weekend.
A year ago, there were several Class 4A and 5A afternoon matchups on the first Saturday, when temperatures in the Dallas area hit 106. Arlington Bowie played at Odessa at 1 p.m., Garland played Denton Guyer at 4 p.m., Midlothian took on Grapevine at 4:30 and Highland Park played Everman at 4:30. It was so hot that Garland coach Jeff Jordan and Guyer coach John Walsh agreed to cut two minutes off each quarter to get the kids out of the heat.
This year, none of those teams played afternoon games. The Tom Landry Classic, which had a Saturday doubleheader at SMU’s Ford Stadium the last four years, decided to avoid the afternoon heat by having one game on Friday and one on Saturday. South Oak Cliff vs. Seguin, which was the opening game of the Lone Star Football Classic doubleheader, was the only local game that started before 6 p.m.
The only afternoon game this Saturday features DeSoto taking on Jenks (Okla.) at 4 p.m. But after a stretch of 100-plus degree days this week, high temperatures are expected to be near 90 degrees on Saturday.
Hopefully, the forecast won’t change.
“It was rough,” Jones said of SOC’s afternoon game.
Jones had his team well prepared, and the Golden Bears performed well in a 32-13 victory. Jones didn’t rule out playing another afternoon game on the first week, but he won’t be seeking one out.
“Hopefully, you don’t have to play in 100-degree weather, but our trainers do a really good job of keeping us up to date,” he said. “We just kept the water going around, and we kept a really close eye on the kids.”
I don’t doubt that. Coaches have been hit over the head with information about heat-related illnesses in recent years, so they are acutely aware of it. They recognize the symptoms better than ever, and that’s great for players.
But the best way to be safe is to stay out of the heat. That’s unavoidable during a Texas summer, but playing in the afternoon is not.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon