The Camp Fire broke out late last year and killed dozens of people in Northern California
A Northern California football team has become a beacon of hope for a town still recovering from tragedy.
On Friday, Paradise High School’s team put the finishing touches on an undefeated regular season, beating Enterprise High School of Redding 48-26 for a 9-0 record for the year, according to KCRA.
Their win comes just a week before the city of Paradise marks the one-year anniversary of the Camp Fire, a devastating wildfire that ravaged the town and surrounding areas, killing at least 86 people before it was finally contained on November 25, the Sacramento Bee reported.
“We’re playing with anger,” running back Lukas Hartley told the Los Angeles Times of the team’s motivation.
“We want it more than anyone else who’s ever stepped on this football field,” added lineman Kasten Ortiz.
The fire — named for nearby Camp Creek — burned through 153,000 acres and destroyed more than 18,000 structures over a nearly three-week time period, CalFire reported.
“It was crazy,” resident Mark Floyd of Downieville told KCRA of the fire. “My brother-in-law, my friends — it just devastated a community, and they’re trying to pull back together. I think it’s pretty cool.”
Watching the high school’s football team stay victorious for nine straight games has been a rallying point for the tight-knit community.
“I think when you’re here, you kind of forget about the fire, you know?” Jackie Garcia, who attended the school in 2018, told the news station. “You’re focused on the students, having fun, and I think that’s what matters now.”
According to the Times, only three members of the team live in Paradise because of the destruction, and many of them face long commutes to get to practice. But the community has been a point of pride for the young athletes and their fans.
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“With all the anxiety from coming up here and seeing the devastation, this is the one piece that feels normal,” resident Trisha Floyd told KCRA. “Coming here and being with all the people we hold dear to our hearts, it’s amazing.”