With youth sports allowed once again, crosstown rivalry kicks off Tustin high school football season

TUSTIN, Calif. (KABC) -- For the first time since youth sports were shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a crosstown rivalry going back nearly 60 years finally played out again on the football field Friday in Orange County.

Tustin High School wide receiver Mark Rivas said the Tillers were hungry for the win.

"A lot of us seniors want to go out on a 'W,' want to bring it back. Last year didn't go so well, so we're pretty confident tonight," Rivas said.

If there's one thing the Tillers and Foothill High School Knights can agree on, it's that they're lucky to be facing off at all.

Friday's was the first game for both high schools after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down youth sports.

According to Mark Eliot, spokesperson for the Tustin Unified School District, both teams last played a game in the Fall of 2019.

Foothill High School defensive end Nicholas Fryhoff was excited when he heard they'd be allowed to add a sixth game.

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The "Friday Night Lights" are back on at some high school football stadiums in the Southland, with players hitting the field for the first time in more than a year.

"I think many of us doubted that we would have a season at all, so the fact that we have six games and our first game is Tustin is huge. It's awesome," Fryhoff said.

Things looked very different though.

The musical spirit of the Friday night game didn't take to the field for a halftime show.

Tustin High School Brass Captain, Manuel Sandoval, said he would miss their field show.

"Playing the 'Star Spangled Banner,' marching out back, being in our uniforms, fully-clothed in our uniforms, you can't do that this year, but I at least am really grateful, glad that we're at least able to be in the bleachers," Sandoval said.

In the stands, there was a maximum of 250 spectators allowed for each school. Each athlete or performer was allowed two guest tickets.

That was better than nothing for some, like Tustin's Band Director, Michael Fisk, who said the band was even more critical during the pandemic.

Fisk was excited his students had the opportunity to perform and "add that extra sound and add that extra energy, help the cheerleaders out, help the football team out hopefully, and get a chance to play."

Foothill high tenor player, Lauren Vasquez, missed the energy of football games.

"Having the spotlight. I really love that, being able to hear everybody, be excited, you know, that's just the greatest part," Vasquez said.

Whether you bleed black and gold or black and red, people agreed it was a chance to give the youth and the community a little taste of normalcy with some Friday night lights.

"We've been working hard in the off season to get prepared and it's been a long time coming for the kids and I'm so proud of their hard work ethic," FHS Head Football Coach, Doug Case said.

"This game means a lot to our boys and to the school and to the city and we're just really excited that we're able to be out here and play," THS Head Football Coach, Anthony Lopez added.

Friday's game was just the start of reopening expected across Orange County. The county is expected to move into the red tier in the state's reopening framework by Sunday, allowing more businesses to reopen.

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