Football Game Truly a Night to Remember
On Thursday at Frisco’s Ford Center, El Paso Eastwood and Plano Senior High played a football game characterized by an unbreakable sense of community between schools more than 600 miles apart.
Plano won, but the final score wasn’t the point.
It was about these communities healing after the Aug. 3 mass shooting at an El Paso Wal-Mart.
Originally scheduled for Sept. 6 at Kimbrough Stadium, Plano ISD canceled the game Aug. 15 due to security concerns, creating uproar in both communities.
The following day, Frisco ISD offered the Ford Center at The Star to the Troopers and Wildcats, and the game was reinstated.
About 30 minutes before Thursday’s kickoff, Eastwood’s players took the field for warmups and received a rousing ovation from fans of both teams.
Plano players met Eastwood at midfield as Eastwood’s quarterback, Christian Castaneda, draped a No. 3 jersey on the turf to honor Eddie Cruz, a former Eastwood player who drowned on Monday.
But the show of support from Plano started long before Thursday.
Before the game was ever canceled, Plano parent Jennifer Davis started a GoFundMe page for families affected by the tragedy.
“Originally, I started the GoFundMe to show the El Paso community we did not want the actions of one hate-filled person to define our community,” she said. “Eastwood High School and the City of El Paso needed to know that Plano had their backs, and we were looking forward to the game.”
After the game was reinstated, the GoFundMe page became widely shared. Her efforts, which included donations from Plano’s Lockhart Smokehouse and Starbucks, raised $4,075 for the El Paso Community Foundation.
“We are so fortunate to be part of Plano and this very giving community. Jenn gave us a call about supporting the school in El Paso, and it was something that spoke to our hearts,” Jill Bergus, co-owner of Lockhart Smokehouse, said.
The Planoettes drill team also did their part, welcoming the Eastwood drill team with open arms, including the teams sharing dinner prior to Thursday’s game.
“It is our pleasure to host the El Paso drill team,” said Lynda Fish, president of the Planoettes’ booster club. “Their community has been hurt and they are trying to heal. We are trying to heal that process through the bond of sisterhood.”
Students in Plano’s PALs program worked together to create posters honoring the El Paso victims, and decorated Plano hallways in Eastwood school colors.
WFAA partnered with Dallas’ Bullzerk to create and sell t-shirts bearing the slogan “Don’t Hate in My State.” At halftime, a check for $110,000 was presented to the Paso Del Norte Foundation, one of two foundations raising money for victims.
Eastwood and Plano Senior also sold matching t-shirts to show solidarity and to raise money for an El Paso nonprofit.
Halftime was also when the Eastwood and Plano bands performed together, another great show of unity and common ground.
“It was so great seeing the two bands playing together, learning each other’s music and cheering each other on,” Kris Stevenson, Plano band parent, said. “Our kids showed everyone it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. (You) just take care of each other.”
This game was also carried live by WFAA Channel 8 with local sports legend Dale Hansen on the broadcast, another example of how this night was about more than football.
It was a shining example of how communities from opposite ends of the state can come together to unite and heal.
In short, it was an evening everyone can learn from.
Photo gallery from the Sept. 5th game: