Running through an inflatable gopher tunnel is a tradition at every home and away game for the Grand Prairie High School football team.
“Just about every school has some sort of a tunnel or a run-through,” said Grand Prairie head coach Gary Bartel. “It’s just part of high school football.”
But that's going to be a challenge for the Gophers just as the new football season approaches.
Bartel got an unexpected call that the team’s giant inflatable tunnel was stolen and that someone unsuccessfully tried to pawn it.
“He [the store clerk] said, ‘Coach, you’re not going to believe this, but I think someone is trying to sell us your run-through tunnel,” said Bartel.
Bartel had to find out for himself if it was actually missing.
“I came down here and this is just how it [the storage trailer] was, and I said, ‘That's not good.’ No pad lock,” said Bartel. “I opened the door and right here is where the tunnel, it was bagged up, and the blower right here.”
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The giant inflatable gopher and the compressor were indeed stolen. The tunnel has been used at Grand Prairie football games for 10 years.
“There is not another school in Texas that their mascot is the Gophers,” said Bartel. “So I have no idea [why it was stolen].”
The team is now searching for a new tunnel that the coach says will cost about $3,000.
“It’s sad that the kids are not going to have a tunnel unless we can recover it,” said Bartel. “But it’s funny that they came in and stole a tunnel with a gopher on top of it.”
Grand Prairie police are working on the case.
Bartel says he hopes they get it back, or at least get a new one, before their first game in two weeks.
The person who tried to pawn the tunnel has not been found.