+ Favorable Atmosphere = School Record
Field Goal in 2003|
Photo courtesy of John Smith D.M.D. of Helena Family Dentistry
A calm, sunny afternoon . . .
On Saturday afternoon October 18th, 2003 at
Vigilante Stadium in Helena, senior Dan
Carpenter kicked the longest field goal in the
history of Helena High School football.
Although Carpenter was given credit for a
53-yard attempt, the ball traveled far beyond
the crossbar. It may have been good from over
60 yards away! On this day the air in the
capital city was perfectly calm, so the attempt
was not wind-aided. However, there were a
couple things about the condition of the
atmosphere that afternoon in Helena that did
work in Dan's favor.
Temperature . . .
This was a day game, and temperature at the
stadium during the game was about 85
degrees F. When the air is warmer the
molecules move faster, causing them to be
more spread out. As a result, a ball traveling
through warmer air will not collide with as
many molecules as one traveling through
colder air. The fewer collisions between the
ball and air molecules on a warm day help a
ball to travel farther. The warmth of that
afternoon meant that there was less friction, or
air resistance, as the football traveled through
the air than there would have been if the ball
were kicked on a cold Friday night.
According to The Physics of
Baseball by Robert K. Adair, a baseball hit 400
feet when the temperature is 45 degrees F
would travel 416 feet if the temperature were
85 F (about 4 feet farther for every 10 degrees
Another consideration is the affect that warmer
temperatures had on the ball. The air inside
the football was also very warm, so this would
have provided good pressure. To get the
same pressure on a cold day would have
required pumping more air into the ball, which
would have made the ball slightly heavier.
Furthermore, the leather and rubber of the
warmer ball had better elasticity than they
would have on a cold day.
Elevation . . .
Its no secret that baseballs travel farther in the
"thin air" of Coors field in Denver (elevation is
about 5,000 feet) than they do in the sea level
air of Seattle. This is because air molecules at
Coors Field aren't squeezed together by the
weight of the atmosphere above Denver as
much as air molecules in Seattle are. There is
less atmosphere above Denver, Helena
(4,000 ft above sea level), and Butte (about
5,000 ft.) than there is above Seattle, Billings,
and Great Falls. As a result, a football kicked
in Helena or Butte will collide with less air
molecules than a ball kicked at a lower
CLICK HERE to try an interactive home run animation. Set the speed at 125 and the angle at 45.
Great Montana Kickers . . .
The longest field goal ever by a Montana high
school player was kicked by Travis Dorsch of
Bozeman High School in the late 1990's. He
kicked a 63-yarder in a game against Salmon,
Idaho (at Salmon)! Travis went on to have a
great college career at Purdue.
Update: After a stellar career with the University of Montana Grizzlies, Dan Carpenter moved on to the NFL. In the summer of 2008 he was named as the starting field goal kicker for the Miami Dolphins! In his second season with the Dolphins (2009-2010) Dan was named to the Pro-Bowl, becoming the second Helena High graduate to earn the honor. Pat Donavon (HHS Class of '71) was an all-pro offensive tackle for the Cowboys in the early 1980's.
Trivia . . .
What former MSU
Bobcat is in the NFL Hall of Fame? To find
the answer, check out the Hot Link below.
Terms: friction, pressure