Richie Bolin is no stranger to extinguishing fires, literally and figuratively.
The North High third-year football coach worked as a wildland firefighter for two years after the former star star lineman ended his playing career in the state of New Mexico, and also became adept at overcoming life’s challenges when they arise.
The two worlds collided somewhat on Friday when poor air quality from smoke from a pair of raging fires forced the Stars’ home game against Frontier, the last pre-season game to be called off. teams’ season planned before the start of the league game next week.
“I thrive in chaos,” said Bolin, who worked for the Tehachapi-based Kern County Fire Department prior to his current tenure as a physical education teacher and trainer at North. “Growing up in the community that I have lived and the situation that I have been through, then face all that we have had since I took office in October of the season (2019). It was curve after curve.
“We have to adapt and overcome. We tell our children in every game which is the most important? The next. Know what you did wrong, learn from it, but move on. We have to move on to the next room. So I hate sulking, crying or whining. … Hey, that’s what it is. Let’s go. This mentality has been the same with me.
The cancellation is the latest in what has been a bumpy race for Bolin since he took on midseason as an interim coach at North in 2019 after Norm Brown left the program. From the start, Bolin made the transition easy, his team winning their first four games, including a first-round playoff victory.
He was hired as the school’s permanent coach soon after, but the obstacles continued. The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out all football-related activities for nearly a year, followed by a makeshift and abridged spring schedule that was completed just five months ago. Then, following a season opener loss to Porterville, North missed two weeks for health and safety protocols following a positive COVID-19 test.
“I just rolled with the punches,” Bolin said. “Our coaches and our kids are quite used to overcoming obstacles. I don’t really look at the possibility of obstacles very much. I hadn’t anticipated the air quality, the fires… but most of the people who know me, my players, know I’m not complaining. I’m dealing with reality and the present moment, so that’s what we’re up against.
The latest cancellation, implemented by the Kern High School District, was one of many on the day the northeasterly wind pushed smoke mostly from the Windy Fire in Tulare County towards Bakersfield. The fire burned 58,802 acres and was only 5% contained on Friday. The fire at the KNP complex in Sequoia National Park also contributes to the smoky atmosphere.
“I took over and there was no time to think or worry,” Bolin said. “You have to train, you have to play. COVID… the same thing. There’s no point in crying or going on social media and complaining about this and that. We face reality, move on. So right now we’re losing this game because of the air quality. … Keep going, get ready for Highland next week.
Bolin’s views were echoed by other coaches in the region affected by the cancellations.
Foothill coach Brandon Deckard, whose side played a game with Bakersfield High on less than 48 hours’ notice, was looking forward to playing the Drillers on Friday night. But the cancellation was the culmination of an eventful week for the fourth-year coach.
“I’m telling you what, it’s just a roller coaster ride,” Deckard said. “It’s just difficult. It’s just a bummer (for the kids). It was going to be a big scene and it was going to be exciting Friday night with some alumni there and everything to do with that game. … We were all looking forward to him, but then he sort of goes. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the way this season is working.
For interim Drillers coach Rashaan Shehee, the reunion was meant to be his first as head coach and his team’s first game in three weeks due to health and safety protocols – and against his alma mater .
“Obviously we are extremely disappointed, both from a coaching and administrative perspective on both sides,” Shehee said. “These coaches took a long time, these players took a long time and were looking forward to the game. So we are disappointed, but at the same time we both need to focus on the future. We cannot therefore dwell on this. Dwell on it isn’t going to do anything, so we need to look ahead and start preparing for the following week.
Using the cancellation as a teaching moment was something coaches all felt was important.
“It’s disappointing, it really is, for schools and for everyone, but we’re going to take it on the chin and say to the kids, ‘Hey man, let’s focus on what we can control'” said Deckard, who scheduled his team photo day for Friday after the cancellation was finalized. “We can’t control the schedules, we can’t control cancellations, but we can control our efforts day in and day out, and that’s all we can do. “
“Things like that happen in life and that’s all we can tell our kids,” said Shehee, whose team will play at the Centennial at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 2 in the Southwest Yosemite opener. League. “Things are not going to go our way in life, and sometimes you just have to say, ‘Hey, solve it and move on.’ And now we have to prepare for the next one.
West High’s return match against South High has also been put on hold due to poor air quality, something which has become all too familiar for coach Derrick Dunham.
The Vikings ‘Week 2 game at North was called off due to health and safety protocols, and the school was able to find a replacement game against Atascadero on just two days’ notice. But Friday’s situation was just too much to overcome.
“In 25 years at West, I’ve seen almost everything,” said Dunham, who rescheduled the home comeback for Oct. 15 against Ridgeview. “But I was telling someone today, you basically prepare for three opponents a week. The team you are going to play, COVID and the weather. “
But Dunham has remained positive and says it’s important to keep things in perspective.
“There are things that are out of your control, and that’s how it is in life and you have to learn to deal with adversity,” said Durham. “But above all, above all, our thoughts and prayers are with all those fighting these fires and those affected by the fires that are approaching their homes, ancient trees that could eventually burn. When you think about it, football in high school really is a small business. “