Video: Paradise football brings community together
Town embraces sports, rise from ashes nine months after deadly Camp Fire.
From a list compiled on Wikipedia
, more than 200 high school football games still are played on Thanksgiving Day, with the majority taking place in Massachusetts (52) and Connecticut (48).
Every Thanksgiving, we cover a West Coast Thanksgiving Jewel, the Turkey Day Game to decide the San Francisco Section champion at historic Kezar Stadium, where the 49ers hosted their games from 1946-1970 and the Oakland Raiders in 1960. Thursday marks the 96th annual Turkey Day Game, this year pitting Lincoln (San Francisco)
and Balboa (San Francisco)
Lincoln coach Phil Ferrigno has led his team onto the Kezar turf on Thanksgiving 10 times since 2005, winning seven. More than 30 of his family members show up hours before to tailgate, and then feast, win or lose, after the 11 a.m. kickoff.
"Getting up on Thanksgiving to play a championship football game in front of all our fans, family, school, alumni and the city itself — there's nothing quite like it," he said. "It's a tradition like no other. I'm so thankful for it."
As are we.
Besides the tradition and rivalry football games on Thanksgiving, here are nine other examples of why we are thankful for high school sports.
2. Uniting communities
Examples abound here, but none more than Paradise (Calif.)
, largely destroyed in the 2018 Camp Fire, which took 85 lives and 19,000 structures. The football team, currently 12-0 and playing for a Northern Section championship on Saturday, has been a beacon of hope and a major rallying point for the rebuilding community.
3. Amazing plays
Often it's hard to believe some of these 14-to-18-year-olds are in high school. From the one-hand football catches to high-flying dunks to amazing softball grabs, each week we're amazed at the athleticism and skill.
4. Amazing effort
These plays are not quite so hard to believe. That's because the will of young men and women, fighting to achieve for their teammates, peers, school and student body, could move mountains. If not break multiple tackles
, save a volleyball
or run through fences
to catch a ball.
The nation's No. 11 football team Mentor (Ohio)
is on a mission. Like most programs, they want to win a state championship, but the Cardinals are bent on winning for their coach Steve Trivisonno, who is retiring at the end of the season. He's only 56 and has many good years in front of him, but says he wants to leave the new coach a quality team. A selfless sort, he's won 206 games in 22 seasons, been to four state title games but never cashed one in.
Teens have keen sense to authentic coaches who care and Trivisonno, like the vast majority at the prep level, care well beyond a measly coaching stipend. The Cardinals fought back from a 14-0 deficit in last week's quarterfinal against St. Edward to win an instant Ohio classic, 36-35. They play Pickerton Central in Friday's semifinals.
No matter if Mentor actually accomplishes its goal, Trivisonno said he's content: "It's become a football town and I'm proud of that," he told Cleveland.com
. "But it's about more than that. It's going to their weddings. It's watching them grow into men who take care of their families."
6. More instant classics
The sheer volume of high school sports, athletes and games means improbable finishes to fantastic games are not uncommon. Boy that's been true in Texas, which just last week featured its likely football game of the year, Rockwall's 60-59 humdinger
of a second-round 6A-1 playoff win over heavy favorite Allen.
As good as it was, few in the history of Texas high school football will beat last year's state 6A-1 title game, that was decided on a last-play Hail Mary, capping North Shore's
41-36 stunning win over Duncanville before 42,363 fans at AT&T Stadium.
The action is so fierce, so fast, it's sometimes not readily available to truly capture in real time or even video. It can only be caught on camera in an instant. Those images are priceless, sometimes breath-taking.
8. Special moments
On a weekly basis, social media producer, reporter, writer and humanitarian Lynden Ostrander finds multiple stories of the soul. These are rich tales of athletes either overcoming long odds themselves or supporting those who long for athletic glory. One reality clearly in the space: High school kids possess big hearts.
Like Norwich Free Academy and New London, high school sports go way back. That long history allows for comparisons, listings and records, from county to state to national. From local heroes to national treasures, the games allow us to reflect, debate and cherish the past.
We hear the term brotherhood and sisterhood often in athletics, most appropriately at the prep level. Coaches attempt to build them, but the best ones grow organically, from kindergarten to middle school to 12th grade. The most inspiring ones cross over teams, and bonds are formed through sport and competition. All of it leads to the ultimate goal — humanity.