When one thinks football, one rarely thinks of heat and humidity. But fans watching last Saturday's Les Schwab Tires Bowl — the annual football game that pits high school all-stars from the north and southern parts of the state against one another — were forced to face 100-plus degree temperatures on the field.
"The heat was brutal," said Century High School's Derek Jackson, who played primarily on the defensive side of the ball during the game. "I was definitely feeling it, but I did my best and I'm sure we all did."
Jackson's Century teammate, Brennan Howell, who played in the slot for the North's offense, couldn't help but agree with him about the weather.
"The heat was hard," Howell said with a smile. "My feet were hot and my mouth got dry like every five seconds."
Despite the heat the game went on and the South defeated the North 10-7. But this game isn't so much about the outcome — it's about celebrating the high school careers of the state's best on the gridiron and catapulting them to what lies beyond.
The Les Schwab Tires Bowl has continued the tradition of the original Shrine Game as it continues to showcase Oregon's football talent in their final prep football game before heading off to college. It's still quite an honor to be selected to play in the game and every Les Schwab Bowl participant is proud to represent their school and community.
Howell, who'll be playing football at the College of the Siskiyous this fall, said football has always been his favorite sport and it was great to practice again and simply put the pads back on.
"The first day of practice, aside from conditioning being a bit difficult, was great," Howell said. "It was cool to get in the locker room and be around the guys."
Another of Howell and Jackson's teammates at Century and Howell's future teammate at the College of the Siskiyous, J.J. Perez, agreed conditioning was a bit of a factor, but also was excited about the opportunity to get back on the field.
"I've put on like 20 pounds getting ready for football in the fall, so it took me a bit to get used to it," said Perez. "But it felt great to be back out there."
Hilhi's Sage Roundtree, who excelled at running back for the Spartans, played linebacker for the North. Would he have liked to play a little offense? "Sure," he said. But he also enjoyed the defensive side of the ball and playing with and against some of the guys he hadn't competed against in a while due to playing at the 5A level.
"I know some of the guys from youth football, as well as from wrestling," Roundtree said. "But it was just fun playing football again. I really missed it."
So now it's on to college for some, while others' futures contain question marks. Perez and Howell are headed to the Siskiyous, and Jackson appears headed to Portland State, where he said he hasn't decided yet whether he wants to play football or run track.
And Roundtree? He said he's still figuring it all out, but would love to play football and pursue a career in firefighting, which could lead him to follow Howell and Perez to the Siskiyous, where Howell will be pursuing that same career at one of the few places that offers both football and a firefighting education.
"I just started looking into that because I was talking to Brennan and a couple other guys here that are going down there," said Roundtree. "It's definitely worth checking out."