PARADISE, Calif. -- The 2018 Bobcats were primed for a playoff run before the Camp Fire.
“It was a tough decision because we worked so hard, but it’s too big. It’s bigger than football. Kids are everywhere scattered," said head coach Rick Prinz in 2018.
The 2019 team made their way back up the mountain and onto Om Wraith field for another shot.
"Always put your money on a person that has nothing to lose in a fight and that’s all of these kids and all of us. Expect a show," said senior Lukas Hartley in the summer of 2019.
The Bobcats invited the entire town of Paradise to watch them go 10-0 in the regular season.
“I don’t want no sympathy," said senior Elijah Gouls in the summer of 2019. I want them to come out and want them to come take off our heads beause that's what we're going to do. We're coming to handle business.”
Business was booming. Despite some unfortunate events like having to play after one of their coaches had two emergency heart surgeries or when they almost didn’t make the DIII playoffs after an undefeated regular season.
We worked as hard as we can to get here," said Hartley. "We did everything we can and now there's not a whole lot we can do and I just put my faith in god on it and hope I get a playoff game."
And when they did, they rolled through every single opponent. Even with six less players in the semifinal game. They earned another shot at the section championships.
“They played with heart. They played together. They felt like they had something to prove, they really wanted to carry the town and be a part of the rebuild," said Prinz.
But like every story, it must come to an end. Paradise lost to Sutter Union High, 20-7.
"It was hard," said senior Danny Bettencourt. "I didn’t want it to end, nobody wanted it to end, but it happened and I just went up to Lukas sand gave him a hug and just broke down after that.”
"When the game ended I knew that we couldn’t change anything that happened and like I just wanted to take a couple plays back if I could," said senior Josh Alvies.
"The tears are not only for the loss. I think it’s because they started to realize that this football that they had in their lives kind of a distraction from reality was gone," said Prinz.
But still a season that won't be forgotten and one that earned them a proclamation from their town.
"It's not whether you get knocked down," said former Paradise Mayor Jody Jones. "It's whether you get back up. The Paradise High School varsity team not only got back up, but rose from the ashes and provided inspiration for our whole town.
One more yard toward healing and rebuilding Paradise.
“I know that they’ll always be my brothers and that no matter what we will never lose what we accomplished," said Alvies. "We’re going to look back at this game and we’re going to know that we worked that hard to turn a season that was supposed to be a rebuilding season into a season that almost won a championship."
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