Video: Paradise Rising - Football opener unites a torn community
The dream season ended for the Bobcats, but not after helping the town heal.
YUBA CITY, CALIF.
— The feel-good story of the 2019 football season came to an end Saturday as the Paradise (Calif.)
football team lost 20-7 to Sutter (Calif.)
in a rain-soaked CIF Northern Section Division III finals.
That the Bobcats were in the section finals — let alone 12-0 — was remarkable considering the journey the team had been on since the deadly Camp Fire leveled the town of Paradise in November 2018.
Eighty-five people died in the fire that burned more than 15,000 structures. All but three members of the football team lost their homes, including all of the coaches.
The aftermath scattered most of the students and the school was unsure of what to expect for the following season. They cobbled together an independent schedule and ticked off win after win, starting with an emotional 42-0 victory over Williams on opening night at Om Wraith Field
. That game symbolized a rebirth of the town as it was the first community-wide event in the town since the deadly blaze.
The section finals on Saturday was on par with that heart-warming season opener as the game was moved to nearby River Valley High School to accommodate an overflow crowd, many wearing Paradise green and gold.
But Saturday's game wasn't about beginning the healing process, but continuing a magical run that had the Bobcats eyeing not only a section title, but a possible state crown.
"In a lot of ways this was bigger than football and bigger than what
happened tonight on this field," Paradise coach Rick Prinz said about the Bobcats even being in the title game. "This was for our town and helping
rebuild it. They were a key role in that. ... They're special guys."
The rainy conditions made things tough for both squads, each ground-and-pound Wing-T teams.
, who rushed for 144 yards, got Sutter on the board in the second quarter, scoring on a 12-yard with 6:06 left in half. The Bobcats had a shot for the equalizer, but the Huskies defense sacked Paradise quarterback Danny Bettencourt
on the 5 as the first-half clock ran out.
In the second half, Sutter's Cory McIntyre
sandwiched touchdowns around a Tyler Harrison
3-yard TD plunge for the Bobcats. The Huskies ended the Paradise threat, holding on fourth-and-one with just over 4 minutes to play.
"We knew coming into this there were going to be a lot of people rooting against us," said McIntyre, who ran for 120 yards on nine carries. "That's just how it was going to be."
The sophomore Harrison, who came into the night with 2,387 yards rushing, was held to 117 yards on 31 carries and the score. His teammate, Lukas Hartley
, added 119 yards on 24 carries for Paradise.
And while the Huskies celebrated near midfield, the Bobcats hugged, cried and were consoled by their coaches.
Coach Andy Hopper told the story of how Prinz used to have T-shirts that said "Football is a game of life or death."
"I guarantee in Paradise it means so much more than that," Hopper told the team. "I wish it would've been different for our story, but you know what, you
guys are going to be amazing humans, amazing adults when all is said and
done and we're going to be able to say 'I got to coach that kid.' So
trust me when I say that amazing things are coming for each and every
one of you."