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Even In Florida, High School Football Teams Deal With Cooler Weather

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Gainesville High School practices through the changing weather conditions. Hurricanes' head coach Mark Latsko keeps his team ready to play no matter what.
Gainesville High School practices through the changing weather conditions. Hurricanes' head coach Mark Latsko keeps his team ready to play, even when temperatures begin to dip.

With the fall progressing and weather changing, temperatures in North Central Florida should drop. Temperatures were expected to fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit last Friday night.

Though it certainly won’t be a frigid atmosphere, the changing weather will not be what high school teams are used to dealing with. They began conditioning for the football season in the summer.

The cold weather can present different challenges than those faced in the summer, said Mark Latsko, Gainesville High School head coach.

“During the summer time, when it’s hot as can be, the trainers have a thermometer gauge to make sure we’re not out when it’s too hot,” Latsko said. “When it gets cold, it’s a little bit different because your lungs are working harder to process the oxygen.”

Chilly weather won’t stop Latsko from keeping his team ready on Fridays.  He said nothing will change as far as practice goes.

“We condition them just as hard when it’s cold as when it’s hot, just to make sure they’re used to the change in climate,” Latsko said.

One of Latsko’s star players, Tony James, should get used to breathing in that cool air. The four-star senior running back, ranked 164th in ESPN’s 2014 recruiting database, is committed to the University of Oregon, where he’s sure to miss out on that Florida sun.

“I’m still a Florida boy at heart. … I have to get used to this type of weather anyway,” James said. “I’m definitely gonna miss the hot weather.”

He said the most difficult part about the cold weather is dealing with asthma, which affects other GHS players, too.

“I have to make sure I stay in better shape during the cold weather than I do when it’s hot,” he said.

Chuck Dickinson, Keystone Heights High School’s football coach, said he always preaches two things: stretching and water.

“We always stress keeping the hydration up because we have a lot of kids that play both ways,” Dickinson said. “They’ve got to make sure they’ve really warmed their bodies up before they stretch. I see more of pulled muscles in cold weather.”

During physical exercise in cold temperatures, a person should drink 15 to 20 ounces of water every hour.

Keystone Heights senior defensive back Grant McGee said they need that extra water because the cold weather tightens up the players’ throats and lungs.

“(Dickinson has) always been hard on us about it and making sure that we’re loose before practice, and that we always hydrate and keep watering out bodies throughout the week so that we don’t have those cramps on Friday nights,” McGee said.

Although the cold weather can make breathing difficult, playing in the cold means playing in the playoffs, and every teams wants to be in that position.

“I think our whole team would just be stoked to be playing at that point,” McGee said. “Cold weather, hunting season, everyone’s in that mindset. There’s something about (cold weather). It brings up your spirit.”

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