ESPN

video

The Cardinal Newman football team fights to win a championship after the California wildfires destroy their school. For the full feature, tune into SportsCenter Sunday at 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. ET.

Firestorm and Football

After California wildfires destroyed their school, Cardinal Newman football still fought to win.

In the middle of Cardinal Newman High School's football season, the most destructive fire in California history ripped through Sonoma and Napa counties in Northern California, propelled by winds stronger than 50 mph and destroying 5,643 homes in its path. Quarterback Beau Barrington, receiver Kyle Carinalli and receiver Nikko Kitchen were among the seniors on the varsity team who lost their homes.

On Oct. 9, around 1:15 a.m., Beau's mother, Kristi, woke him and told him they had to evacuate. He grabbed his football, computer and yearbook. The next day, they learned there was nothing left of their home. A few miles away, Kyle's mother, Heather, woke him about 12:40 a.m. His father was away on a trip, so Kyle jumped on a tractor and tried to make a firewall around their property. When they returned the next morning after evacuating, they saw their home had burned to ash. Nikko and his father, Brian, saved a disabled woman as they narrowly escaped the fire ripping through their Coffey Park neighborhood, which lost nearly 1,300 homes.

As the community tried to recover, football became a way to unite and bring some healing from the devastation. Team dinners were held in a family's barn next to horse stalls, with players sitting on hay bales. Schools and churches created space for the Cardinal Newman students, who lost close to half of their campus to the fire. Beau, Kyle and Nikko attended classes at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cotati. Rain fell as the team practiced at El Molino High School, which provided a field for Cardinal Newman.

The team continued to win games and advanced in the North Coast Section playoffs. At practice, some students wore T-shirts that said, "Play Through the Burn" to show their strength and resilience. In what turned out to be the final game of the season, against Marin Catholic for the North Coast Section Division 3 championship, Kyle and Nikko wore different numbers than usual because their regular jerseys were burned in the fire. With nuns cheering from the sideline, the teammates played their hearts out as the rain came down on a crushing loss for Cardinal Newman.

SC Featured returns Sunday with the story of the Cardinal Newman football team's quest for a championship in the aftermath of the most devastating fire in California's history. Watch "Through the Fire" at 10 a.m. ET on SportsCenter.

Cardinal Newman High School quarterback Beau Barrington looks through the debris of his family's home, which burned in the Northern California firestorm that swept through Sonoma and Napa.

Nearly 1,300 homes burned, including this one in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, in the Tubbs fire that burned through Sonoma County. Nikko Kitchen, a wide receiver for Cardinal Newman High, lost his home in Coffey Park.

When the Tubbs fire burned through Sonoma County, Cardinal Newman High School was destroyed. Classes were held in various locations throughout the county, including at St Joseph Catholic Church in Cotati.

During a Cardinal Newman football practice, some students wore T-shirts that said "Play Through the Burn" to show their strength and resilience.

On a misty, rainy evening, Cardinal Newman linebacker Porter Tett takes the field with his team for practice at El Molino High School, which provided a field for the team to practice.

Barrington, right, works out with his team in the pouring rain. A few weeks earlier, the quarterback's home burned in the Sonoma County fire. The team pulled together and won games as it sought a return to normalcy.

Kitchen, a wide receiver who lost his home in the Sonoma County fire, lets the rain fall on his face during practice. He said football provided a welcome distraction.

Barrington, No. 7, works out with his team in the pouring rain as they prepare for their game against Encinal High School.

During a team dinner at a player's family's barn, Charlie Thompson reaches back toward a horse that peeked out of a stall. Beside him is Julio Angel, also a junior.

After the team dinner, players moved outside to roast marshmallows for s'mores.

Before the NCS Division 3 quarterfinal game against Encinal High School on November 17, Barrington joins his teammates in a pregame prayer.

Barrington celebrates with his teammates after scoring a touchdown against Encinal.

Kitchen, center, and Barrington, right (no helmet), celebrate after beating Encinal. Cardinal Newman would go on to beat rival Rancho Cotate 29-28 in the semifinals to secure a spot in the championship game.

A crowd watches Cardinal Newman play Marin Catholic in the North Coast Section Division 3 championship game.

Barrington's parents, Kristi (front row, second from left in letter jacket) and Jay (next to Kristi), watch the game from the stands. Kyle Carinalli's mother, Heather, watches from a seat behind Jay. Both families lost their homes in the Sonoma County fire.

From left, Sister Michelle Marie, Sister Maria Faustina, Sister Mary Victoria and Sister Mary Rose from Cardinal Newman cheer from the sideline during the game against Marin Catholic in the divisional championship.

Barrington is wrapped up as he fights his way to scoring against Marin Catholic. The Cardinals had a 35-24 lead heading into the half.

From Marin Catholic, Sister Maria Frassati (facing camera, arms raised) celebrates with Sister Marianna and Sister Teresa Benedicta, at right, as their team scores a touchdown.

Ted Lindquist, a coach from Marin Catholic, consoles Barrington after Barrington's season comes to an end. Cardinal Newman lost to Marin Catholic 59-56.

Cardinal Newman coach Paul Cronin gives an uplifting talk to his players on the field in the rain after the season ends in the North Coast Section Division 3 championship.

Carinalli takes a moment on the sideline. Football had helped take his mind off the tragedy of watching his family's home burn.

Barrington sits on the floor of the locker room. He finished his final high school game with 330 passing yards and two touchdowns.

More Stories