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Thursday Night Lights: Two teams united by tragedy come together as one at El Paso Eastwood, Plano Senior High game

“We’re all one. That’s what this game is about.”

It was a football game that almost didn’t happen but desperately needed to happen.

Eastwood High School in El Paso was scheduled to travel to North Texas to take on Plano Senior High. The game had been scheduled for months.

But on Aug. 3, police say a graduate of Plano Senior High drove to El Paso and went on a hate-filled rampage, killing 22 people and injuring dozens more. 

Police say he targeted Hispanics.

“The man that did that lived in our neighborhood,” said David Schwartz, a Plano Senior High parent. “It’s a tragedy that hits home.”

Thinking back on the day brought tears to several El Paso parents’ eyes. 

“It’s not something that Texas is about,” said Andy Santos, whose son attends Eastwood.

Credit: Teresa Woodard
El Paso Eastwood takes the field at The Star in Frisco.

Plano canceled the game because of security concerns. But neighboring Frisco ISD brokered a deal.

They offered up the Ford Center at The Star, where Frisco ISD schools play some home games. The Star is also the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Plano and Ysleta’s superintendents agreed security would be tighter there.

And the game that had been called off was back on.

RELATED: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones greets every member of the high school football team from El Paso

Hundreds of families traveled across the state to watch the game on Thursday night.

“My son’s a senior for Eastwood and I came to see him play,” Santos said. “And to show El Paso is strong and make sure everybody knows we’re going to stay strong.”

The Leon family drove in Thursday morning.

“We couldn’t imagine anybody could have done that to us,” said Estella Leon of the rampage. “Nobody in El Paso would have done that.”

“But we’re all family. We’re all one. That’s what this game is about,” said Rocky Leon.

Members of the student councils met on the 50-yard line and exchanged gifts, hugs, and tears.

RELATED: Plano and Eastwood high school students exchange gifts, share moment of silence prior to football game

When the Troopers from Eastwood took the field, the stands on both sides roared.

The teams huddled on the field and stood together during the National Anthem. The head coaches stood side by side and hugged. But after the kickoff, it was all business.

Both teams scored in the opening quarter to the delight of fans.

Signs in the stands offered messages of peace and love for El Paso.

There were handshakes and hugs, and clear signs of unity and diversity over division.

That is why it felt so good for the game that almost didn’t happen to finally happen. It proved just how much Texans persevere.

“It sends of message of – you’ve just got to keep going, got to band together,” Schwartz said. “It’s all about people being together.”

Final score: 

  • Plano Senior High School: 43
  • Eastwood High School of El Paso: 28

RELATED: 'Don't hate in my state' T-shirt proceeds to go to El Paso victims relief fund

WFAA has been raising money to benefit victims of the violence in El Paso through the sale of a specially designed “Don’t Hate in My State” t-shirt designed locally by Bullzerk. T-shirt sales will continue during the game. 100-percent of the proceeds will go to the El Paso Victims Relief Fund, established by the Paso del Norte Community Foundation. The station plans to make a check donation during the broadcast.

Thursday Night Lights is Sponsored by Texas Health Resources

PROGRAMMING NOTE: On Thursday, September 5th, WFAA is broadcasting the Plano Sr. High vs. El Paso Eastwood High football game.

ABC’s airing of The Lego Movie will air overnight at 1:41am.  Reef Break is available on abc.com.

Where should Dale Hansen go next? Vote for the Game of the Week here: Football Friday

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