Like baseball, high school football is played out in the elements, where it’s subject to all of the venom that nature can send its way. Unlike baseball, football trudges on through it all – or almost all. Contrary to popular belief, even football can be rained out or otherwise called off by weather. Flooding, snow, blinding fog, hailstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes will do the trick. But easily the most common cause of delays and postponements in high school football is lightning. Because of the threat of lightning in a crowded stadium, authorities in Florida and Georgia require stadiums to be cleared whenever officials detect lightning within a five-mile radius. Moreover, teams cannot resume until 30 minutes have elapsed since the last sighting.
Other weather issues may be less electrifying than lightning, but they call for safety policies of their own. The scorching heat of Florida is not merely uncomfortable for high school athletes; it can kill. As reported by CNN, 39 high school players died of heat-related conditions between 1995 and 2008. To mitigate the risks, the Florida High School Athletic Association requires one-minute water breaks during each quarter, usually at the stoppage closest to the six-minute mark. At that point, players leave the field to grab water or sports drinks and take a break from the heat. And although football continues even through the rain, players must make sure to prepare their footwear to deal with slippery slop from the state’s patented late-day thunderstorms. Most fields also include a crown to aid drainage, but players must keep their eyes open for slick or muddy spots.
Friday night’s meeting at Oakleaf High School between the host Knights and Atlantic Coast combined sloppy weather with an unforgettable finish. As shown by the pictures above, an afternoon of steady rain had drenched Oakleaf’s field. But the Knights brightened the day of their fans with a last-second wonder play. Trailing 14-10 with 9.9 seconds to play, Oakleaf called for a desperate pass to the end zone. Two players deflected the ball before junior receiver Darius Perry corralled it for a winning touchdown. As shown in my Times-Union report, the victory lifts Oakleaf to a 4-0 record, and first place in District 3-7A, for the first time in school history. National outlets like MaxPreps, which posted YouTube video of the catch, have already publicized the spectacular ending.