LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — High school football is nearly back in full-swing across Southern California for the first time in 16 months and the community of players, coaches and loved ones is excited about its return.
Schools will play a shortened season with family only in the stands.
At Long Beach Poly High, a powerhouse school that regularly sends its best to the NFL, many players and coaches were ready to get back to Friday Night Lights.
“I tell you what, we are playing football, you know! It’s March, but we are excited,” said Serra High School head football coach Scott Altenberg, which played against Long Beach Poly on Friday.
Parents, too, are thrilled to be back out on the sidelines supporting their children.
“It’s been a year since we’ve sat in the stands watching my son play,” said Kimberly Kirkwood.
Long Beach Police hosted Serra High School in their first game since coronavirus changed everything.
“If you were to talk to any student right now, the one thing they would say is they don’t take anything for granted anymore,” said Vincent Puth, activities director of Long Beach Poly High School.
It’s a lesson the team says some of its members had to learn the hard way.
“I lost my auntie… One of our players lost his father and we all came together,” said Jacob Tuioti, captain of the Long Beach Poly football team. “Not every day was guaranteed for us. When we came out because we love the game. We’re living for the moment now.”
After a year of Zoom calls instead of practices and Friday night lights, hope was all that kept the players’ heads in the game.
“I hoped that we were gonna play. I could see that we are gonna play,” said player Bryce Wills.
But just like that, the team was back in action and back on the field — just where they hoped they’d be.
“The kids have been making sacrifices, they do all their work online then head to practice. The kids have been getting straight As and it’s just a wonderful feeling to see the football finally come back,” said parent Angela Robinson.
One thing coaches say they recognize in the players is courage.
“They know grit,” Altenberg said. “They say this generation a lot lacks that, not after this. It’s definitely been something they’ve found… They have a lot of heart. Our future is gonna be pretty bright with them.”