Few things can invigorate a community like sport. A true testament to the community-building power of sport comes from Paradise, California, where firefighters finally extinguished the Camp Fire that all but destroyed the town one year ago.

Although hardly anything in Paradise has been rebuilt, the town’s high school football field survived, standing like an oasis in the ash. This season, every home game has been played in front of a jam-packed crowd, with one player claiming “the whole town of Paradise is here.”

Both on and off the field, that support has paid dividends. Paradise High School went undefeated this season and will be heading to the division championships—something that is all the more impressive considering 37 of the 40 players lost their homes to the fire. Off the field, the football games have served as one of the only links to Paradise’s past, allowing the town’s members a moment of respite in what has been an incredibly difficult year.

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