PARADISE (CBS13) – The Paradise Football Team has become a symbol of hope for the community recovering from tragedy. The team is undefeated for the first time in 15 years.
Neighbors call Paradise a football town.
“It’s one of the biggest traditions up here,” said Senior Casten Ortiz.
And just as the Bobcats grew up knowing football, they grew up knowing fire.
“I think everybody knew that it was a huge possibility, all the time this could happen,” said Ortiz. “Everyone was taken aback by the impact of it, and how it happened. It swept through town.”
As the players drove out of town on November 8th, many wouldn’t come back to their childhood home.
“It was tough, maybe just saying goodbye to everything I’d known for the past seven years,” Ortiz said.
But as the town rebuilt, Head-Coach Rick Prinz said the football team did too. “It drives us, it drives me to make sure we’re at our best,” said Prinz.
Only 22 players were left after the wildfire. Now the Bobcats have more than 100 kids hitting the field. They made it back to their home turf in June.
“We had to go 10 and 0,” said Prinz.
The football community showed up to support their team even though fewer than 2,000 people now live in Paradise. At their first game, Coach Prinz said 6,000 people showed up.
But being undefeated isn’t enough.
“I’m not satisfied until we win a championship,” said Ortiz.
CBS13 asked both player and coach how they feel walking on to the field with this story on their shoulders.
“There’s a lot of pressure not just for the community, but because of the circumstances,” said Prinz.
“It’s the right kind of pressure,” said Ortiz.
Pressure, but hope for the community around them, that has so much left to rebuild.
“Football is everything to us, and it’s the only thing that seems normal right now,” said Ortiz.
Although undefeated, it’s still not clear whether Paradise will make the playoffs. The northern section of the California Interscholastic Federation uses a points system to determine playoff seeds rather than a traditional wins and losses formula. Paradise is seeded ninth and only the top eight make the playoffs.
If some teams ahead of them lose, the team still has a chance of making it.