Par­adise High falls in ti­tle game

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By ADAM BEAM

A North­ern Cal­i­for­nia high school foot­ball team has lost in a cham­pi­onship game one year af­ter a deadly fire de­stroyed most of their town, in­clud­ing the homes of most play­ers and coaches. Par­adise High School lost to Sut­ter Union High School 20-7 on Satur­day night in the North­ern Sec­tion Divi­sion III cham­pi­onship game. The game comes just over one year the fire in Par­adise burned roughly 19,000 build­ings and killed 85 peo­ple. In the end zone af­ter the game, se­nior run­ning back Lukas Hart­ley cried with his team­mates, telling re­porters “I didn’t cry this bad when my house burned down.”

YUBA CITY, Calif. — A North­ern Cal­i­for­nia high school foot­ball team has lost in a cham­pi­onship game one year af­ter a deadly fire de­stroyed most of their town, in­clud­ing the homes of most play­ers and coaches.

Par­adise High School lost to Sut­ter Union High School 20-7 on Satur­day night in the North­ern Sec­tion Divi­sion III cham­pi­onship game. The game comes just over one year the fire in Par­adise burned roughly 19,000 build­ings and killed 85 peo­ple.

In the end­zone af­ter the game, se­nior run­ning back Lukas Hart­ley cried with his team­mates, telling re­porters “I didn’t cry this bad when my house burned down.” He said he plans to be a fire­fighter af­ter he fin­ishes high school.

“I’m just proud of all my brothers and thank­ful to God for put­ting me on this path,” he said.

Par­adise coach Rick Prinz told the team af­ter the game he was proud of his play­ers.

“No one re­ally knows how much they truly bat­tled just to be at prac­tice and to do what they did,” Prinz said. “They lost ev­ery­thing they owned a year ago. They are all liv­ing in dif­fer­ent places. And to pull it to­gether like this and help our com­mu­nity come to­gether is truly amaz­ing.”

Most of the peo­ple who lived in Par­adise have moved away. But many have re­turned on Fri­day nights to watch the foot­ball team’s re­mark­able season.

The high school has a foot­ball tra­di­tion, con­sis­tently field­ing com­pet­i­tive teams. The school pro­duced Jeff Maehl,

a wide re­ceiver who played for the Univer­sity of Ore­gon in the 2011 BCS na­tional cham­pi­onship game and later played for two NFL teams.

Last year, the school was 8-2 and pre­par­ing to host a home play­off game when the wild­fire swept through the town. The school sur­vived, but nearly ev­ery player and coach on the team lost their homes. The team for­feited the play­off game, end­ing their season.

The team al­most didn’t have a 2019 season. In Jan­uary,

Prinz had just 22 play­ers left from what had been a 56-man ros­ter. The school had re­lo­cated to an of­fice build­ing by an air­port, and without a field to prac­tice on the team ran plays on a gravel lot.

But the play­ers were de­ter­mined to play.

Erica Browe, 38, lost her home in the fire. She now lives in Red­ding. At first, her two teenage sons went to a new school. But she said they were mis­er­able and their grades suf­fered. They now live in Par­adise with some friends so they can at­tend their old high school and play foot­ball.

Re­turn­ing to Par­adise made a big dif­fer­ence in her sons’ lives, she said, and the team’s suc­cess en­cour­aged the com­mu­nity nes­tled along a ridge in the Sierra Ne­vada foothills.

“It gives hope back to the ridge that we can still be strong and stick to­gether,” she said.

Par­adise High School fin­ished the reg­u­lar season un­de­feated, outscor­ing their op­po­nents by a com­bined score of 469-73. But their mag­i­cal season ended Satur­day on a rainy, cold night.

Associated Press

CAUGHT — Par­adise run­ning back Tyler Har­ri­son, cen­ter, is tack­led by Sut­ter Union cor­ner­back Ro­man Re­sendez dur­ing the first half of a North­ern Sec­tion Divi­sion III high school foot­ball play­off game on Satur­day.

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