HERSHEY, Pa. -- In the land of Three Mile Island and Hershey chocolate, the word "melt" must be used, uh, judiciously. No sense in alarming the natives.
So, let the players on Maryland's Big 33 football team -- practicing twice a day at a high school on a hilltop overlooking Hersheypark Stadium -- tactfully describe the experience.
"We're taking a lot of water breaks," said Forest Park's Josh Austin. "The last couple of days it's been 102."
"On the mountain we get a little breeze," said Randallstown running back Larry Washington, The Evening Sun's Athlete of the Year.
Truth be told, it's been murder out here. But as much moisture as the players sweat out and pour back in, their enthusiasm for the week's events remains undampened. This Saturday night Maryland's best high school football players meet Pennsylvania's best in the Big 33 game, trailing 6-1 in the series.
Of course, if you start out with a 6-foot-3, 280-pound body, as Austin does, a few drops of perspiration still leaves you with plenty of heft to throw around the football field, as Austin has. The coaches have noticed, and Austin should see a lot of action at offensive guard.
"It's his ability to move, as big as he is," said head coach Doug Duvall of Wilde Lake. "He's real agile and light on his feet, well-coached and fundamentally sound. Plus, he'll knock you down."
Austin, bound for Wake Forest in the fall, hasn't been knocked down by the heat or the busy schedule, which includes luncheons, banquets, rehearsals and, of course, practices.
"We've had a great experience," he said. "We visited a lot of hospitals with handicapped kids; being with the host family [each player stays with a local family]. Playing with these type of guys that are at the same level, that's what really gets me motivated."
In fact, the caliber of talent on both sides has the Maryland players excited that they are no longer big fish in a small pond.
"I've never been challenged this much," said Wilde Lake's All-Metro safety Ricky Rowe, headed for Penn State. "This is what competition is all about." And he hadn't even taken a Larry Washington stiff-arm in an intrasquad scrimmage yet.
Gilman's Keith Kormanik, a wide receiver who will report for practice at Boston College on Aug. 4, said, "Looking at the rosters I thought, 'This is almost like a college game.' "
It's not just the rosters that have impressed the recent high school grads. There's the efficiency of services offered. "You've got your own trainers," said Wilde Lake running back Raphael Wall, who's going to Maryland in the fall. "People tape you up and check your name off the list."
And the small-scale bowl game atmosphere in a football-crazy state.
"The people in Pennsylvania -- you're a main attraction," Austin said of his team's travels through town. "Every time they see you they wave and honk their horns."