Yes, it’s going to be hot Friday evening in G.M. Tennant Stadium.
Forecasts are calling for an expected temperature just under 90 degrees at kickoff Friday as Polk County hosts Tuscola, the schools resuming a series last played in 2012. Kickoff is set at 7:30 p.m., and school officials said Thursday that they don’t anticipate any type of change to that start time.
So it’s going to be hot. But it’s been warm all week, and that’s the message that head coach Dustin Fry has been sharing with his players, even during practices that have had to be altered due to the high temperatures and humidity.
“I don’t want to harp on it too much because then it becomes the major opponent,” Fry said. “We’re playing the heat and Tuscola. Let’s focus on ourselves and do the things off the field to make sure we’re ready.
“They know it’s going to be hot, but I think they’re embracing that a little bit. We’ve practiced in the heat all week, we practiced in the heat all camp. It is what it is at that point.”
North Carolina High School Athletic Association guidelines require schools to measure the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) during practice. Per the National Weather Service: “The WetBulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) is a measure of the heat stress in direct sunlight, which takes into account: temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover.”
The NCHSAA has various rules in place for what can and can’t be done during football practices based on the WBGT. If it’s between 88-90, for example, then players cannot wear shoulder pads or other equipment. Anything above 90 means a team can’t practice. Those guidelines certainly affected Polk County’s schedule this week.
But the Wolverines also take a conscious approach to heat management, with Fry remaining in close and constant contact with athletic trainer Jason Nussbaum.
“We had to be out in the heat this week,” he said. “We need to feel it. We need to feel what it feels like and we need to work hard in it and exhaust ourselves to know, because we don’t need any more cramping.
“Our trainer does a really good job providing the right stuff for us to make sure we talk to them about 24 hours out, 48 hours out, how we should be hydrating, how we fuel our body. We provide a lot of that stuff for them here.
“Obviously, as the week goes on, you’ve got to be smarter. I’m big on, let’s get on and get off if we get our work done. I tell them all the time that if you’re dragging, that means we’re out here longer not because I’m extending practice, but because we’re not getting what we need to get done. If we can be crisp and move around, we’ll get you off the field and off your feet. We can do a lot of things mentally and in meetings, we can do a lot in walkthrough. But we’ve got to get our work in.”
The work may have been even more important as the Wolverines (1-0) prepare to face a Tuscola team that nearly upended Asheville in its opener, falling 25-22. The Mountaineers finished 10-2 a season ago, and expectations around the program have remained high in the offseason with the hiring of head coach Jonathan Crompton.
There’s also the factor of a 1A school facing a 3A school to add even more of a challenge for Polk County.
“I think they see that as OK, we’ve all got to step up our game a bit,” Fry said. “Our top guys, our dogs, I think they are excited about that challenge. I don’t know if they see themselves as the underdog, but I think they are like, OK, this film looks better than the week before. These guys are coached well and they are good athletes. They run well.
“But I make it about us more than anything. If we do the correct things, if Polk County doesn’t beat Polk County as in false starts and illegal procedures and not lining up correctly, that’s beating ourselves. If we can not beat ourselves, we’ll be in good shape. I feel the guys are pretty excited about this week.”