BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — A high school football team here in Kern County will return to campus starting next Monday. For the South High Rebels getting back on the field together as a team in prep for a football season means so much more than the game itself.
"It's like it's not just like football. Just not there's like 'oh just a sport.' You build a brotherhood and a bond, and that's better than anything, you know," said South High senior defensive tackle
Terrell Bishop. "It's just as good. It's a good feeling. So now that you have people fighting behind you down during tough times and battles and things like that."
Bishop, like most, wasn't aware of the challenge ahead following the 2019 high school football season. And probably didn't realize this battle we all now know as COVID-19 would keep him from his team.
"When you get onto a team, and you guys are also close. It's like you're missing brothers. Not being able to bond with the guy and get after the sport we love."
Rebels head coach Cary Mills sees how not having access to school and sports has hit his team in ways some may not expect.
"I can drive around the neighborhood and I see kids who would usually be at school or at practice, whether it's football or something else. You know, running around on their bikes just out doing nothing."
"Keeps you very busy. Yeah, like if you don't have to practice you don't have time, you don't feel like going out, hanging with dudes at the park or something you know," responded Bishop. "You feel like doing all that. You just get your homework done and ready to go to sleep."
"School and athletics especially just gives them discipline in their lives," continued Mills.
Others have responsibilities outside of school, Bishop, for example, helps take care of his younger siblings.
"The role model is like they look up to me so I have to make sure I'm doing everything right so they'll follow behind me. So yeah, it's like, kind of leading the pack as you can say."
But balancing those responsibilities, along with distanced learning, and preparing for a possible season without school resources, poses its own set of challenges.
"Very few of these guys have any private coaches or gyms at home," said Mills. "It's maybe some weights in the back or in the garage. They don't have, they don't have these resources."
"We all handled a little bit different I suppose. It was okay for some but some others but I feel like when we come back together as a team, are we gonna be ready," said Bishop.
Ready to return to what always made life feel normal: football.
"Rebels we gonna take it we're ready. We are ready for anything," smiled Bishop.
This time just a little more battle-tested for one final run.
"For South High, it kind of unites the community. The school starts playing football again and you know just bring a little bit of normalcy back to their lives because it really is. Look what you got. Look how quiet it is," said Mills.
"I know I'll still have those brothers that fought with me. And when it's done in my life I will never forget it. I'll always love this game," added Bishop.