Monday, September 18, 2017

It's high school football season again

In November, 2008, an unforgettable football game took place between Grapevine Faith High School in Grapevine, TX, and Gainesville State School, a maximum security detention center for juvenile delinquents. Gainesville never played a home game, and no fans attended their away games, since none could get out of detention. Usually, the only people in the Gainesville stands were 12 uniformed guards with handcuffs in their back pockets. Faith had the latest football equipment and hundreds of involved parents. The parents of many Gainesville delinquents had disowned them. The Gainesville Tornadoes wore 7-year-old shoulder pads and outdated helmets. So Faith High School coach Kris Hogan reached out to his community. He asked half his fans to cheer for the Tornadoes, distributing 400 lists of their names, so the rival players could be cheered individually. He asked half his cheerleaders to root for the Tornadoes. It was a strange experience for the Gainesville players. "I thought maybe they were confused," a Gainesville lineman said afterward. "They started yelling DEEfense when their team had the ball. I wondered why they were cheering for us."

That night the Tornadoes played the best game of their lives, scoring two touchdowns. After the game, when both teams gathered mid-field to pray, a Gainesville player named Isaiah asked to lead. Everyone was surprised. What would he say? "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank you, but I never knew there were so many people in the world that care about us."As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus, each player was given a bag for the ride home. It contained a burger, some fries, soda, candy, a Bible and an encouraging note from a Faith player. Before they left, the Gainesville coach found Coach Hogan and told him, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know!" Since 2008, Faith has played Gainesville each year in a game called the One Heart Bowl. Fans always split between the two teams. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was so moved when he heard about the games that he invited Coach Hogan and his wife to be his guests at Super Bowl XLIII.

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