On 7 November 2008, one of the most inspirational high-school football games ever took place as Grapevine Faith, a Christian school, defeated Gainesville State, a juvenile correctional facility, 33-14, in Grapevine, Texas. The game, which has become an annual event, was inspirational because half of the Grapevine Faith supporters were cheering on the Gainesville State players, who had probably never had anyone cheering for them in their entire lives. After all, they never play at home, and every game is an away game. Grapevine Faith coach Kris Hogan had the idea of his team playing the team from Gainesville State. Coach Hogan sent out an email to his team’s fans, asking half of them to root for players on the other team: “Here’s the message I want you to send: ‘You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth.’” One of Coach Hogan’s own players asked him, “Coach, why are we doing this?” Coach Hogan replied, “Imagine if you didn’t have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you.” When the Gainesville State players took the field, the Faith fans—the fans of the other team—made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through. At the end was a banner for the players to crash through; it said, “Go, Tornadoes!” Fans of the Grapevine Faith Lions made the banner. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and cheered the Gainesville players on. Isaiah (no last names of the juvenile offenders are given), Gainesville’s quarterback and middle linebacker, said, “I never in my life thought I’d hear people cheering for us to hit their kids. I wouldn’t expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!” Alex, a Gainesville lineman, said, “I thought maybe they were confused. They started yelling ‘DEE-fense!’ when their team had the ball. I said, ‘What? Why they cheerin’ for us?’” Half of the Grapevine Faith cheerleaders cheered for Gainesville State. Grapevine Faith coaches gave parents Gainesville State rosters so they could cheer for opponents by name. Coach Hogan said, “The looks in the eyes of those kids, and also our parents, our players, the officials, the ballboys—everybody. Everybody at the stadium was brought together. There was no good and bad.” Mark Williams, the Gainsville coach, told Coach Hogan, “You’ll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You’ll never, ever know.” Coach Hogan said, “We wanted to show them unconditional love. Love covers a multitude of sins, the Bible says, and it wasn’t just the Gainesville kids, because we’ve all sinned. That night, love covered everything up.” During a prayer after the game, Isaiah said, “Lord, I don’t know how this happened, so I don’t know how to say Thank You, but I never would’ve known there was so many people in the world that cared about us.”
For Further Information: Rick Reilly, “There are some games in which cheering for the other side feels better than winning.” LIFE OF REILLY. ESPN. Accessed 17 October 2012.
Also: Matt Wixon, “Annual Grapevine Faith-Gainesville State One Heart Bowl is Friday night.” High School Sports Blog. 13 September 2012
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