September 8, 2010

At Mercury Bowl, kickoff temperature is 108

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It was 117 degrees during the day ... 108 at the 7 p.m. kickoff ... still over 100 at game's end.

And neither team seemed to mind. Heck, neither team really seemed to notice.

Welcome to the Mercury Bowl - a now-annual game between Palm Springs High and Palm Springs Desert High - played for the first time last weekend in the California desert.

"When you live in the desert, you get used to the heat," Palm Springs athletic director Chris Calderwood said. "It really wasn't that big of a deal to either team."

It was a big deal to other schools. That's how the game got started in the first place.

League opponents know they are going to go up against the heat when they go up against a Palm Springs school. But league games come toward the end of the season.

Trying to get a school to come out for a non-conference game in what is called zero week - California schools have the option of starting the season a week early and taking a bye later on - is a lot harder.

"You schedule teams in two-year blocks with a home and home," Calderwood explained. "It would be fine when we went to their place, but when they came here, it was tough on them. No one ever wanted to re-up the series."

Palm Springs eventually turned to the only other school that understood: Palm Spring Desert, located just 15 miles away. "It made sense," he said. "Their kids are used to the heat. Their fans are used to the heat. We decided to have some fun with it, so we called it the Mercury Bowl."

The teams will meet a second time during the league season, with only that game counting toward the league standings, though Calderwood noted the first game would be counted if any head-to-head tie-breaker was needed.

The warm weather always is an issue for Palm Springs High when it comes to scheduling; its next three games are all on the road. But Calderwood said the warm weather is not an issue for the kids' health.

For starters, he said, the kids are used to it.

"We practice in it every day," he said. "Often it's 110."

But more so, the coaches and players are prepared for it. And deal with it all season. The temperature in Palm Springs can reach triple digits even up until Halloween.

"When you live in the desert, you get used to the heat and pay tremendous attention to heat-related issues," Calderwood said. "We let the kids take off their helmets and have forced hydration breaks.

"A lot of things we do they don't do in other places because we're so aware of the heat. But we're so used to it, it almost becomes a non-issue."

Calderwood said his school has a slight advantage when teams come to play Palm Springs - you have to remember, it's hot in the nearby areas, too. (It figures to be in the 80s when Palm Springs kicks off at Arroyo Valley this Friday.)

But he also admits his kids have trouble adjusting to cooler weather.

"Some times they put on too much clothing and overcompensate," he said.

That wasn't an issue during the Mercury Bowl.

"It was everything we wanted and no one complained about the weather," Calderwood said. "We actually had a good gate."

And a great game - or, at least, a great individual performance.

Palm Springs won, 35-20, behind senior Nephi Garcia.

Garcia ran for 225 yards and three touchdowns, had 71 receiving yards and another score. He even kicked three extra points. In all, he scored 27 of his team's 35 points.

All this, and on his 18th birthday, too.

Now ... that's cool.

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