High school football in Oakland is back and Skyline High dedicates season to victim of gun violence
JULIETTE GOODRICH: High school football is back in Oakland. Four schools played their first game this evening after the pandemic pushed their season back six months from the traditional start. KPIX5's Da Lin is at Skyline High School where coaches say the game provides more than just football.
DA LIN: Coaches say the game provides structure for the student athletes. Skyline, for example, lost a player to gun violence during the pandemic. The kickoff to the Oakland Athletic League, Skyline hosting McCylmonds. Players say it feels good to be back on the field, even better scoring touchdowns.
- Yes, yes.
- You just missed that after-school practice, you missed the after-school lift. You just missed being around your peers.
- Yeah, it was a little difficult because we used to seeing each other every day.
JULIETTE GOODRICH: McCylmonds defensive end Aaron Hughes, number 12, lost five family members during the pandemic. Without football and mentors, his mom and dad worried he would join the wrong crowd.
- With the losses in our family and stuff, I just didn't see no drive. And then all of a sudden he just wowed me and said, mom, all right, I'mma do this.
DA LIN: First game in a year, plenty of yelling and screaming from the coaches, but the players know it's tough love. NFL cornerback Marcus Peters also on the field coaching and mentoring the McCylmonds players.
- It just feels like we got our dad on the field, you know? Well--
- Feel good.
- Feel good, you know, yelling at us.
DA LIN: The head varsity football coach a Skyline, Joe Bates, says they're dedicating the season to 16-year-old Aaron Pryor. The football player was shot dead near his East Oakland home late last year.
JOE BATES: It was kind of numbing with the trauma, so we got a sticker on the back of our helmet and we're playing for him this year.
DA LIN: Coach Bates says a year of online learning and no after-school programs hurt a lot of students.
JOE BATES: The grades started to decline, some of them dropped out, some of them got jobs and just kind of stuck with that and just forgot about school.
DA LIN: So this is a welcome sight, even though no spectators are allowed. The players are glad to salvage the season.
- We're doing our best and really limiting exposure outside of sports as much as we can.
DA LIN: They hope to have five games in this abbreviated season. Next season should be back to normal. In Oakland, I'm Da Lin, KPIX5.