More than a game for the city of Paradise

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Coach Hopper going over strategy with Paradise players. Photo credit: Wesley Harris

Paradise High School football returned to play in front of their Paradise family for the first time since having their playoff hopes denied after the city was traumatized by the largest fire in California history. Along with running the score up in a 42-0 shutout, the Bobcats’ performance provided the stage for a moment and gathering that the city had never seen before Friday. A community ran by their love of the game was a scene of smiling faces of an overflow crowd acting as the medicine for the healing process of a shaken community.

“ This is something bigger than football. This night represented the beginning of healing. And that healing needs to happen in our community. Many of these guys, we haven’t seen each other in at least ten months. And I know that sounds like its not very long, but after that fire, I didn’t know if I’d never see my family again, so this was like a family reunion. The game was important don’t get me wrong, but there’s something bigger than this going on right here. And my hope is that it’s the beginning of healing that’s going to continue on for this town,” Coach Andy Hopper said.

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Paradise High School and community in attentendence Friday evening Photo credit: Wesley Harris

The kickoff to the 2019 campaign for the Bobcats was high in anticipation as thousands of people poured into the Paradise High football stadium. The city had the opportunity to come together and celebrate something joyous for the first time since November. Before kickoff, an ear-shaking student body and Paradise community honored the first responders and heroes of the tragic incidents.

“This is probably the most people this stadium has ever had. It is (a defining moment). Enrollment in school was supposed to be lower, and after the first couple days of school, enrollment was higher. Kids clearly want to be here. People want to return to the town and try to make the best of it if there is a normal.” School Administrator Seth Rodgers said.

The Bobcats rolled through the Williams High defense starting from the first drive of the season. The first possession would be capped off by a 15-yard run. The scoring would continue to flow as the Bobcats finished the first quarter up by three touchdowns, including a 60-yard touchdown pass on their second possession. The Bobcats defense was commanding by applying pressure to the gunslinger quarterback of Williams High.

The Bobcats would put up two more scores in the second quarter while shutting the Williams offense out. The half closed with a Bobcat interception caught at the Paradise 20-yard line and being taken down by the last man in defense on the opponents 30-yard line.

The dominance of Paradise High continued through the second half posting another score. With bench player all in rotation, the Bobcats cruised over Williams High with a 42-0 victory.

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Paradise High School cheerleaders and Paradise first responders taking the field Photo credit: Wesley Harris

From the Paradise citizens crowding both endzones, camera crews filming, first responders present, a roaring student body, all the way to the team clicking, people smiled from ear to ear to celebrate something truly heartwarming as one of the first positive events took place in the city since the destruction. The game of football provided the means for the people to forget about the terror even if it was just for a moment. The town witnessed the healing that is all-important for the town to rise even stronger than it once was.

“This is a huge event and I’m never going to forget this,” Defensive Tackle Josh Alvies said.

Wesley Harris can be reached at [email protected] and @flacko_flame on twitter