In this Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, photo, Paradise High School football player Lukas Hartley runs up the stairs of the football stadium after practice in Paradise, Calif. Paradise’s game against Williams High School on Friday will be the first game for the team since a wildfire nearly destroyed the foothill community last year. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

California town devastated by fire turns to football to heal

August 23, 2019 - 11:33 am

PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — A high school football team in a Northern California town that was mostly destroyed by a wildfire is a year ago is playing its first game since the blaze.

The Paradise High School Bobcats are scheduled to play Williams High School on Friday. It's their first time back since a wildfire destroyed nearly 19,000 buildings and killed 86 people in November 2018.

Head Coach Rick Prinz said the team has 35 players, down from 56 last year as the school has lost nearly half of its students who were forced to move away.

School officials said they expect about 5,000 people to attend the game. The team will enter the field through the home stands, led by last year's seniors who never got to play in their final game.