A high school football rivalry showdown was played Friday night amid a Coachella Valley Unified School District shutdown, as a fire continues to smolder in the east valley.
The highly anticipated Victory Bell game between the Coachella Valley Arabs and the Indio Rajahs was played at Indio High, despite being planned for Coachella Valley High.
CVUSD announced Thursday the district was closing all schools and offices, including activities and athletics, due to the Martinez Fire burning less than a mile from three Thermal schools, which were evacuated as a result of heavy smoke in the area. 15 students were rushed to the hospital and treated for smoke-related issues.
“These being two of the oldest high schools in the Coachella Valley, it’s a huge rivalry that’s multi-generational,” said John Lienhard, an Indio High teacher.
Despite the closure, the Victory Bell game played on. It’s a game students, parents and alumni look forward to year after year.
“Every year we get ready for this, every year all my family shows up and it’s just something we do as a family,” said Estella Garza, a Coachella Valley High alumnus and parent.
As a result of the change of venue to Indio High, Coachella Valley High became the away team.
“It was supposed to be home and everybody was excited,” said Angela Lemus, a Coachella Valley High senior. “We were excited for the pep rally. Everybody bought so much stuff. We made posters for the game and for it not to happen at CV, it’s really kind of disappointing for us.”
Congressman Raul Ruiz, a Coachella Valley High grad himself, was in attendance and spoke about the fire at the game.
“Some of these students are going into asthma attacks and many of them have allergic reactions because of all this smoke,” Ruiz said. “It is an imminent danger to their health.”
“We can still smell the smoke at school and it’s affecting our lungs so I think, yeah, the district made a good choice,” Lemus said.
The game was played after a chaotic week, but win or lose, both sides were pulling for each other.
“We’re going to be out here cheering for (Coachella Valley High),” said Daisy Garcia, an Indio High senior. “It’s their senior night, so we’re going to get hyped with them, cheer for them.”
The Martinez fire continued to burn Friday sending smoke into the air. The district plans to re-evaluate the smoke conditions Monday.