New Centennial head softball coach Joe Dey,

New Centennial head softball coach Joe Dey, middle, will be trading in his red Blackbird attire for Centennial Broncos’ blue when the 2020 high school softball season gets underway. Dey has long been associated with the Gresham Blackbirds softball program, where many of the Centennial athletes play their summer ball.

UTICA – It’s definitely not unfamiliar territory for retired Centennial teacher Joe Dey.

Just last July, Dey led the Gresham 18-U Blackbirds to the Class C state softball title in Hastings and has long been associated with that program. Many of the same girls that will be on the Centennial Broncos’ 2020 team have played for Dey over the years.

“The idea of being a coach for Centennial has been in the back of my mind for a little while now. I sure didn’t make that my top priority, but knowing that I am a retired teacher allowed me to be flexible and ready if the opportunity presented itself,” Dey said.

Dey said that having been around a lot of the girls on the team through the Blackbirds program should help with the transition.

“I have been coaching summer ball for quite some time now at Gresham and have worked with many different age groups, but have really been involved with the high school-aged girls most recently,” Dey said. “Hopefully this will make the transition into the Centennial program much easier for all of us. I have worked with a large amount of the returning players coming into the 2020 season at one time or another. I know their skills and abilities, which should help us as a team to get a good jump start on the season.”

With all the summer programs in jeopardy because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dey said that the playing field will be even coming into the fall year.

“All teams in the state of Nebraska will be in the same boat if no summer ball is allowed. Individual workouts and preparing for the upcoming season is important,” Dey said. “I have no idea when the restrictions and guidelines will be lifted, which is a concern for all involved. The restrictions at this time make it very difficult to pursue a summer softball schedule, but hopefully by August things will get better.”

Dey’s aunt, Judy Dey, was one of the first head coaches of the Centennial softball program and led the team through the early years from 1998-2006. During that time the Broncos made five state tournament appearances in eight seasons with their best finish coming in 2001-02 when the team went 2-2 at both state championship tournaments. The first two years of the team’s existence were under the leadership of Frank Greene, and Judy was his assistant.

In 2005, Judy was inducted into the USA Softball Hall of Fame as a manager.

Centennial’s last trip to the state tournament came in 2018 when it opened with an 11-3 win over the Guardian Angels Central Catholic Bluejays. That broke a six-year absence at the tournament.

In 2018 with Jake Polk as the head coach, the Broncos went 2-2 as they defeated Auburn 9-4 and lost to Arlington and eventual state runner-up Bishop Neumann.

No decisions on the 2020 high school season have been made, and those would appear to be coming in the near future.

“I look forward to working with the girls this fall and I know that we will have challenges along the way, but with a good attitude and effort things will work themselves out,” Dey said. “Let’s cross our fingers and hope that we can all participate in fall ball.”

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