Heat is on and it’s thrown high school schedules off

Staff photo by TOM KING Nashua North freshman football player Bryden McClallen dumps water over his head to cool off during a break in North's freshman team practice on Tuesday.

The heat is on, and most high school fall sports teams are off.

Or at least their games are.

Most high school athletic events in the area, with a few exceptions, were postponed due to the extreme heat and humidity on Tuesday.

And the same may happen today.

“We’ve faced this extreme weather before,” Milford athletic director Marc Maurais said, “but usually in the first week of pre-season.”

“You’re just trying to be smart and safe,” Nashua athletic director Lisa Gingras, who called off all soccer games scheduled for Tuesday and at least one field hockey game for Wednesday. “The thing is, you’re going by the fact the kids are in ‘beginning season shape’ That’s not the same as mid-season shape or end of season shape.

“Had it been later in the year, we may have thought about it a little. But to do that (make them play) at this time of the year is really hard. And if we call off the varsity games, we also will call off the JV games as well.

“For the heat index to be over 102, that’s just not good.”

Gingras said there were multiple discussions over the last few days with coaches and other schools, and the decision was made on Monday.

“It wasn’t made in a vacuum,” she said.

The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association pushed football practices back five days this year for heat and safety reasons, so the coaches are used to light practices. Nashua North had their varsity players wearing no pads, taking frequent water breaks or having water handy for anytime during practice.

Freshman practiced in pads for half an hour, and then they came off. Helmets were off for some players. There was at least a little breeze.

“We’re getting water out near the drills so the access to water is constant,” Titans coach Dante Laurendi said. “You’re just finding ways to adjust, try to get something in, and still have an efficient practice.”

Some schools,including Souhegan cancelled all athletic events and practices, although, on the school web site, there was a notation that teams could have indoor meetings if so desired. Some teams moved events to early evening. For example, Alvirne had football practice starting at 6 p.m. rather then earlier in the afternoon.

Before the heat really got extreme, some soccer games – such as Hollis Brookline’s win Monday over Manchester West in sticky weather – were played using 20 minute quarters rather than 40 minute halves to increase water breaks.

“We received (on Monday) helpfulguidance from the NHIAA on modifications we could use for games with the various sports official associations, scheduledstoppage for water breaks,” Maurais said.

The time of year just has made it easier for schools to make up games, with a whole season ahead.

“We’ve been trying to find common off-days, and it’s easier since it’s early,” Gingras said.

Gingras gave teams the option to practice if they so desired, provided they took it easy and had plenty of water available. “I trust my coaches to do the right thing,” she said.

Most of Tuesday’s soccer schedule was called off, including Hollis boys vs Merrimack Valley, both Campbell boys and girls soccer games, Bishop Guertin boys and girls soccer vs. Merrimack, and Milford boys soccer t Manchester West. Bedford opted out of a quad match that included Nashua South and Bishop Guertin at Nashua Country Club, but the Panthers and Cardinals still played. Nashua North also went up to Hanover for a match.

“Most of the time, we’re at the mercy of the golf course,” Gingras said, noting plenty of water would be available for the players. “Golf matches are almost impossible to reschedule.”

The other factor is many of the postponements were sporting events that were to take place on field turf, which routinely gives off a lot of heat, raising the temperature on the field by as much as 15-20 degrees.

With that in mind, Gingras has called off Wednesday’s field hockey game between Nashua South and Keene at Stellos Stadium, as Motta Field is all field turf. However, she’s holding out hope that the 6 p.m. game field hockey game between North and Dover can be held at Stellos, although the JV contest has been cancelled.

“Peter Wotton and I will touch base in the morning,” she said.

When it’s cooler.

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Bishop Guertin football, which opens up on Saturday vs. Manchester Central at Stellos Stadium, is starting a new tradition. Beginning with the Central contest, the football program will honor a member of the school community at each home game.

That person is, according to the school’s Instagram post, invited to attend pregame practice, address the team, watch the game from the sidelines, and accompany the captains for the coin toss out to midfield. A teacher at the schol, Mark Lajoie, is will be the first honoree.

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The annual Fall Nashua North-South Battle of the Bridge is set to go. While most of the events are just before or on the last weekend of September, it starts with North’s and South’s team boys and girls cross country scores at the North Invitational (which includes other schools) on Saturday, Sept. 15.

Here’s the rest:

Wednesday, Sept. 26 – Varsity and JV golf at Green Meadow.

Thursday, Sept. 27 (all at South) – Unified soccer, 3 p.m.; freshman girls volleyball, 3:30 p.m.; freshman football, 4 p.m.; JV volleyball, 5 p.m.; varsity girls volleyball, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 28 – JV field hockey, 3:30 p.m.; girls JV soccer, 3:30 p.m.; boys JV soccer, 3:30 p.m., all at South; varsity football, 6:30 p.m. at Stellos Stadium.

Saturday, Sept. 29 – (all at Stellos) JV football, 9 a.m.; boys varsity soccer, noon; girls varsity soccer, 2 p.m.; varsity field hockey, 4 p.m.

Unified soccer used to be part of the all-day Saturday at Stellos, but Gingras said the coaches indicated it would be easier to do it right after school because some players would have a problem getting over to Stellos on that Saturday.

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If you notice your favorite local Division II team – be it from Hollis Brookline, Souhegan or Milford – playing different opponents than in the past, you’re on to something.

The scheduling “clusters” that Division II used a lot in the past are no more.Instead it’s a more balanced, widespread schedule, with no teams generally playing each other twice. For example, the Hollis Brookline girls are slated to make their first ever trip to Plymouth for a game on Thursday. “We’ve never played them before,” Cavs coach Peter Clarke said.

The Cavs would always play Souhegan and Milford, among other schools, twice; now it’s just once.

“Sometimes we’d start with the same tough teams in soccer, and we’d be 0-6,” Cavs athletic director Rhon Rupp said. “Or, if they were easy teams, we’d be 6-0. We’re playing Merrimack Valley, Kingswood, teams we’ve never played.”

Rhupp said it wouldn’t impact transportation costs too much; instead of fairly long road trips, say, to the seacoast, Cavalier teams are making those trips up north.

But, as he noted, the more even schedule will have in impact on tourney seedings.

“They’ll be more accurate,” he said.

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The Stableford Point System used by Divisions II, III and IV in golf are creating one interesing thing, Milford coach Bill Soubosky said.

“Pace of play,” he said, “is much quicker.” Matches, including his own team’s, he said, have taken not more than two hours.

“It’s really good, and you don’t have to look at individual scores,” he said. “A kid could have a high score, but he could have good hole that is worth points. So OK, you take the points and keep on playing. That way kids don’t get discouraged.”