PUNXSUTAWNEY— You may not think soccer is a contact sport, and if you don't, well, you're wrong.
There is, however, no denying the conditioning that it takes to run up and down the field 80 minutes at the high school level.
With a heat index that was through the roof on Tuesday, both the DuBois Beavers and the Punxsy Chucks were struggling to battle through the scorcher.
Even the most well-conditioned athletes struggled with the humidity.
If standing outside for just a brief moment didn't make you realize it, watching Punxsy and DuBois players cramp up and even throw up did.
Despite the heat, both teams took the field in a game that isn't told by the score alone.
Unfortunately for the Chucks, the score is the one stat that means the most, as the Chucks dropped the contest 5-2.
"It's nasty, but it's nasty for both teams," head coach Phil Shenkle said. "It makes it where it's no fun to play. It's just all guts out there. Quite frankly, when we play them at their place, you're going to see a game that's twice as fast on both sides. Everybody was lethargic. Our trainer came up and said he did a heat index check and said it was the hottest he ever saw it up here."
And that's no exaggeration.
Athletic trainer Chris Albright said that the humidity was "highest he's ever recorded" at 62 percent.
Regardless, the teams had to play on.
The heat didn't get to the Beavers out of the gate, as Jared Hawkins and Andrew Harman gave the DuBois a quick 2-0 lead.
Down but not out, the Chucks stormed back to even the score 2-2 off a Tanner Evans goal at 25:21 and a goal put in by DuBois' goalie at 19:49.
Another goal by Harman gave DuBois a 3-2 lead at the half.
As Shenkle rallied his troops after they put fluid in their bodies, he touched his heart while giving them a speech.
What did you tell them, coach?
"It's something we're working on to basically play harder," Shenkle said. "That's the long and short of it."
Whatever the message was in full, it resonated
The score stayed even as the teams continued to sub players in and out due to the temperatures, but the Chucks had a moment to tie the game with 11 minutes left in the contest.
Evans received the ball at midfield, dribbled through defenders to the strong side of the field and let off a rifle shot.
The shot was heading straight toward the net, but smacked off the goalpost before being scooped up by the DuBois goalkeeper.
A simple play like that, with the score close and heat less than invigorating, can shift momentum just like that.
"With the heat, that's one of those things where you can find the will to keep moving. There was that one and one where we had a guy with a breakaway where you can only assume he was going to score, but was taken down on a no-call," Shenkle said. "It's one of those situations where it takes a lot of wind out of your sails."
"You say, 'Oh, that's a scoring opportunity' only to have it taken away. On a day like today, those are some serious momentum stealers that can steal your soul."
You could say their souls were stolen at that moment, as Punxsy was unable to capitalize the rest of the way.
With the game out of reach, Harman added a third goal for a hat trick, and Carson Hanna tallied a goal to push the score to 5-2.
Despite giving up five goals, Shenkle was pleased with the play of goaltender Tristan Acre.
"He did well at taking away the angles. He did a nice job. I know he's dealing with a little bit of a sore leg that is limiting his range of movement. Considering, they were moving well and we were letting things open in the middle," Shenkle said. "It's been a little bit of a problem for us all year. When you let them shoot from the top at 18 yards away, they're going to score. I thought he did a nice job moving around and taking away what he could."
As always, DuBois came to play against the Chucks.
"They're the toughest team we see all year, with the exception of Hollidaysburg," Shenkle said. "DuBois is a big, Triple-A team. It's always a good test for us to see where we stack up when we play them."
As Shenkle said, a better measurement of where the Chucks stand against DuBois can be seen when Punxsy travels there on Oct. 15.
A combination of DuBois playing well, a defensive let down, the heat and depth was too much for the Chucks to overcome.
"We had a little bit of both. You have to give credit to them as their movement is very good. They do a nice job of communicating and little things like that," Shenkle said when addressing the defensive letdown. "We're missing a starting midfielder, which all of the sudden takes away from the bench. When you don't have a huge bench, what that does is taking one of your subs to make him your starter."
"When he gets tired, now you're going down even further in the depth chart. In a game like today, every pair of legs is important. It definitely affects things. I'm looking forward to having a full complement next time we play them."
Overall, Shenkle was pleased with the tenacity his boys showed in coming back from an early 2-0 deficit, but says the individual efforts aren't enough.
"You have to like that. You have to like the fact that we can produce offense. We just need to work on our organization," Shenkle said. "Our biggest problem is that we aren't playing as a team. We're having a lot of good individual efforts all across the field by all 11 guys. We're not working together as a team."
The Chucks will return to action on Thursday in an away match against the Brookville Raiders.