LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. (KGET) — The Kern Valley High School Broncs had high expectations last season with a bulk of the team being experienced seniors against higher ranked teams in their district.
Then COVID-19 stopped league sports for students, along with the season that could have been the one for the Broncs, suddenly ended.
Mike Genthner, head coach with Kern Valley High School, had to clear the dugout with just four games into the season.
“When this hit last year in mid March, it was just sudden, we were only four games into the season, and that’s when it hit, and within a couple of days we were no longer coming to school,” he said.
Players were suddenly cut from sports sending students home without any alternative for organized league play.
“We actually had a team meeting with the players a year ago. No one had any idea what we were in for,” Genthner said.
Genthner was worried the seniors he’s been coaching since their freshman year would graduate without swinging a bat.
“I’m really happy that the seniors are getting this opportunity. You know, a few months back we weren’t sure this was going to happen,” he said.
The Broncs’ current roster contains a majority of seniors that have been starting for Genthner since they were freshmen.
“The bulk of our team is seniors that have been starting for me since they were freshmen, so our expectations were high, we went through the struggles when they were freshmen,” he said.
This year, the Broncs got off to a rough start, losing 3 to Mira Monte but then beat Shafter 2 out of three and are now bucking their way to the playoffs.
“The schools were playing, you know the MIRA Montes and the golden valleys,” said Genthner. “They’re only gonna make us better.”
Hunter Blagg, varsity senior class of 2021, almost didn’t get the season he’s been winding up for.
“We got four games in our last season because of the pandemic, we didn’t even get to play half the season,” he said. “I just worked super hard over the offseason, at home every single day, just working on everything I could, pitching groundwork, big enough first base, and hitting most of all it’s I’ve had the biggest improvement.”
In the fall of 2020, some counties in California moved to less restrictive tiers allowing athletes to condition for a short period but then suddenly ended when COVID numbers went back up.
The short fall season in 2020 gave athletes a taste of what they were missing. When coaches invited them back to programs, lots of students jumped at the opportunity to return to courts and field.
“I think a lot of them were chomping at the bit,” said Genthner. “After just a few weeks of conditioning, COVID numbers went back up again and no practice, no sports, nothing.”
After a year-long hiatus, the Broncs are ranked third in their division and have a two game lead in the series against Foothill.
“Our approach is: let’s just get as much practice and playing time as we can and start building up towards the playoffs,” Genthner said. “If we’re in the division six playoffs as we expect to be, maybe we can make a run at it this time and go deeper in the playoffs.”
The Broncs stand to face the Trojans tonight to end the series at Foothill High School.