Football game gives jailed youths hope, second chance

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on September 10, 2010 at 10:56 PM

Updated Sunday, Sep 12 at 1:21 AM

GRAPEVINE — It seemed like a typical Friday night under the lights in North Texas. Fans filled the stands; cheerleaders cheered on the sidelines; the two teams battled on the gridiron.

But there was nothing typical about the game played on this field, especially when the visiting team arrived. Everyone could sense something different in the air.

Grapevine Faith Christian School fans cheered their opponent, the Gainesville State School Tornadoes. That seemed to fire up the team.

Half of Faith Christian's cheerleaders roted for the Tornadoes. Half the fans went to the Gainesville side of the field to back for the opposing team.

The Tornadoes aren't just any high school football team. These young men are incarcerated for crimes they've committed.

Faith Christian football coach Kris Hogan came up with the idea two years ago to send an uplifting message.

"I hope it teaches them that people believe in you," he said. "This is a country of second chances and grace and tolerance."

At first, it seemed awkward for the cheerleaders and fans. But they quickly embraced the idea.

"They’re so caught off guard," said Faith Christian cheerleader Cayla Chastain. "And they're so grateful and thankful, and their faces when they turn around and hear people cheering for them and hear us calling them by name."

Faith Christian running back Ashton Dunnington said he heard his parents cheering for the other team. "You have a group of people that will cheer for somebody — even if it's against their own flesh and blood — but has enough heart and love for somebody else," he said.

For Gainesville State School players, this is much more than a football game; it's a second chance at life.

R. Greer is doing time for aggravated robbery. He will be released in two months.

"Coming from where we come from, this shows us that we do have opportunities in life," he said. "We can do better than what we've been doing."

There were two football teams, two cultures, and one heart on the field; that's also the slogan of an upcoming movie about those two teams.

Grapevine Faith Christian won Friday's game by a score of 35-22, but that didn't seem to matter.

In this game, everyone came out a winner.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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