“In 2020 we thought we would have flying cars but no, here we are teaching people how to wash their hands! “– seen on a holiday card.

Where do you make the first insertion of the fork to end the year 2020? What a trying and perplexing year for Zachary sports.

In looking back at 2020 columns, there was no material and no local sports to reflect on in April through August. There too many too many early goodbyes to high school careers cut short.

There was Zachary High School track phenom Sean Burrell and 17 other track seniors, 10 senior ZHS baseball players who were anticipated to potentially win a 5A championship, two ZHS golfers (Kylie O’Brien and Emily Hagen) who had a strong chance of a state championship, senior softballer Aly Brashier and eight tennis seniors.

What could have been — we will never know.

By August, the 2020 fall sports season began, stopped, changed, adjusted and provided coaches in multiple sports the opportunity to rework their schedule on what must have seemed like a daily basis to address COVID-19.

It is safe to say that the middle and high school coaches in Zachary logged a ton of hours just to keep up with change in 2020. All ZHS sports ended up having “senior night” during the first or second game of the season for fear that the remainder of the schedule would be canceled. For those who thought this was premature, reflect back on the spring when it was a reality.

Then came hurricane season — five storms hit Louisiana during the 2020 season, breaking the state record for strikes in a year. There were three hurricanes (Laura, Delta, and Zeta) and two tropical storms (Cristobal and Marco). Fortunately, Zachary suffered little damage compared to places like Lake Charles.

The ZHS football season started on Sept. 25 with a victory over West Feliciana (34-0). The Broncos followed that with a thrilling victory over St. Augustine (41-32) and then things started getting crazy again. Hurricane Delta roared through Lake Charles, resulting in the cancellation of ZHS’ football game with Lake Charles Prep on October 9. Victories over Istrouma (49-0), Live Oak (45-0) and Denham Springs (44-14) would follow.

COVID-19 crept into the season the week before the Denham Springs game and resulted in cancellation of the remaining two district games against Central and Walker after the Scotlandville game on Nov. 7.

The playoffs were also “off-schedule” as the first playoff game against Airline, which ZHS won 41-7, was played the day after Thanksgiving. In years past, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been reserved for ZHS quarterfinal games (eight years straight). After defeating New Iberia (34-7) on Dec. 4 in the second round, the 3-seed Broncos matched up with the six-seeded Alexandria Senior High in the 5A quarterfinals on Dec. 11.

The week of the quarterfinal game against Alexandria I received a text that inquired, “Do you remember where you were two years ago on December 8?” I did not. After a little research I was reminded that everyone in Zachary was in the Superdome (without restrictions on attendance) to see the Broncos defeat West Monroe for their second straight 5A state championship.

The silence in the press box of Bronco Stadium after the quarterfinal loss to Alexandria was deafening. During the David Brewerton era at Zachary, the Broncos have never failed to reach the 5A semifinals and have never lost a home playoff game. A talented and well-coached ZHS team fell victim to 2020. The dream matchup of a home semifinal game with West Monroe passed like a whisper in a howling hurricane wind.

After the quarterfinal loss I decided to write this column as soon as possible to get the bad taste of the loss out of my mouth and be done with sports for the remainder of 2020. Yes, there were great wins and great athletes doing amazing things, but the stop-and-start nature and constant change made it a tough year for sports. To put things in perspective and prioritize, 2020’s COVID-19 and storms were difficult for everyone whether it be from the loss of friends or loved ones, loss of employment, property damage or just the frustration of waking up to another tough day.

Ever the optimist I look to the endless possibilities for 2021. First, a prayer and warm wishes for everyone to stay healthy and an end to COVID. Secondly, hopes for safe play and complete seasons for the 2021 spring and fall sports teams in Zachary.

Yes, 2020 was challenging. Let’s set the bar high in 2021. Would it not be fitting to throw down the gauntlet and challenge those who participate, coach and support Zachary sports for 2021? It’s time for Zachary to start winning titles again. Let 2021 be the year.

Basketball, soccer, wrestling and indoor track, you are first up. How about bringing some trophies home to Zachary? Come spring of 2021 the challenge goes to baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track and field. A special challenge to the 2021 ZHS football team. Prepare to reestablish the power dynamic in 5A football, return to the promised land and add another state championship banner to the Athletic Center.

To all of you, have a safe and Happy New Year.

Warren Brady covers sports for The Plainsman. He can be contacted at zachary@theadvocate.com.