QUICKSBURG — Mountain View coach Kyle Kokkonen called last Friday one of the toughest days he’s had since he’s been at the school.
The Mountain View varsity football coach had to tell his players that they were canceling the season due to the low numbers on the team.
“It was really tough to look some of those guys in the eyes and know that it was their last opportunity to play and that was gone,” Kokkonen said on Monday afternoon. “So that was really tough.”
Kokkonen said the players responded about how you would expect.
“It was a tough day,” Kokkonen said. “It was a really tough day all the way around.”
The Generals have hovered anywhere from 15-to-20 kids all season and Kokkonen said it was getting to the point where they were worried for the safety of the kids.
“It was something we’ve been kind of fighting all the way through,” Kokkonen said. “And it was hard to get enough to feel comfortable about our safety going into the remainder of our games. ...It’s something we’ve been dealing with for a while. We’ve been trying to piece it together as long as we could, and it just got to the point where we were afraid we were going to put somebody at risk.”
The Generals played against Luray on Aug. 27 and lost 62-0. They had a bye week the following week. They were supposed to host Bath County last week, but Bath County had to cancel the game early in the week due to the school division switching to all-virtual learning.
The junior varsity team is still having a season, and Kokkonen said he and the rest of the varsity coaches will be helping them out. The JV team has 24 players listed on its roster.
Kokkonen said he is also having some of the varsity players come out and help the junior varsity team.
“They get an opportunity to coach their future teammates a little bit, which is kind of cool,” he said. “So we’re going to find the positives in that.”
Kokkonen said he had a “core 15” that were there the whole time and gave everything they had to the team.
“They worked their butts off,” Kokkonen said. “When we kind of put it out there that we had to be committed, the 15 I had they did everything I asked them to do. It’s just a shame that there weren’t more of them to keep that work going.”
Numbers for football have been down for most of the schools in the area this season. Kokkonen said the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help and he said he believes that it’s getting harder to get athletes to buy into playing a tough sport like football.
“This past two years have made it really tough,” Kokkonen said. “Last year was really tough too. We started practice early, and we’re able to get some guys to come out to help us move along. I think there’s a lot of things competing for their time now. And really at the end of the day football’s a tough sport and it takes tough guys that are willing to go. And so until we get some more guys willing to come out and see if that’s for them or not — it’s a tough sell at points.”
Kokkonen said he hopes that they can get more players out for next year and get the program going strong again.
The Generals had four seniors — Cody Burkholder, Hunter Frazier, Kadin Hitt and Jacob Lemon — and Kokkonen said it was especially tough to tell them that the season was over.
“The reason why we’re not continuing now has nothing to do with the (core) 15 that I had, if I had 30 just like them we’d be going and I think we’d be competing,” Kokkonen said. “And so same thing for our seniors. The four seniors we had, it was not for lack of effort on their part and so that makes it sad for them. If it hadn’t been for the effort we got it would have been a much easier decision. But they did come out and do everything we asked and that made it really tough.”