Football helps city ravaged by Camp Fire rise from the ashes.
All the fuss and debate about who crossed which lines and for what reason really didn't matter after all. The Paradise (Calif.)
football team remains resolute to cross its own finish line.
Despite missing six players — five whom were starters — the Bobcats rode the powerful sophomore legs of 6-foot-2, 185-pound running back Tyler Harrison
, who rushed for 243 yards and three touchdowns to take down top-seed and host West Valley 28-13 Friday night in CIF Northern Section Division 3 semifinal play.
According to ShastaCountySports.com
, Harrison scored on runs of 42, 73 and 86 yards as the fourth-seeded Bobcats improved to 12-0 while advancing to the the Nov. 30 section finals at second-seed Sutter, a 25-7 winner over third-seed Lassen.
Every contest, every practice is emotional-charged for these Bobcats, who have embraced the role of inspiration for a city that was largely destroyed by the 2018 Camp Fire, which took 85 lives and more than 19,000 structures. It also ended Paradise's football season, minor in comparison, but still fresh with these Bobcats.
Besides the playoff passion that comes with it being an elimination game, the Paradise players and coaching staff were also quite charged after the Northern Section suspended six of its players on Tuesday for Friday's game for their part in a skirmish during a 56-0 victory over Live Oak the previous week.
The school was in agreement that one and perhaps two of its players deserved to sit out, but that the other four who left the bench and stepped onto the field — against the rules under any circumstance — were acting as peacemakers and deserved leniency.
An appeal was denied on Thursday, but nothing apparently was going to deny the Bobcats on Friday. They had a 28-0 lead by the end of the third and were in complete control. They've now outscored opponents 553-86 and Harrison is up to 2,387 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns.
He told ShastaCountySports editor T.J. Holmes the week-long drama paled in comparison to the chaos and turmoil each player has faced over the last year. The suspensions were just another minor obstacle. But it was still personal. The team relishes chants of "Green Machine," and recites easily the team mantra of "One team. One family. One Town."
"Every game, every practice we get better to pursue our goal of winning a section and state title," Harrison said. "We do it for the 85 people we lost in the fire. We do it for them and we do it for this team and this town."
As good as Harrison was on offense, it was Paradise's defense that really stood out. They held West Valley scoreless for more than three quarters and also got a 75-yard interception return for touchdown by Brenden Moon
. In a season of firsts, it was the first interception West Valley threw all season.
West Valley senior Cade Lambert said he was impressed with Paradise's resolve. He wouldn't bet against the Bobcats versus any squad at this point, or obstacle.
"The game of football is more than running and blocking," he told Holmes. "The emotional toll you take from practice through tragedies like they faced — they fuel you in a way you can't understand. Their ability to take punches and keep pushing is incredible."