GRAPEVINE, Texas – In 2008 Faith Christian (Grapevine, Texas) was coming off a 2007 State Championship game appearance. Head Coach Kris Hogan looked at the schedule and saw the team’s last regular season game would be against Gainesville State School. This would begin the traditional One Heart Bowl.
Gainesville State is a maximum security prison school. The athletes are only allowed to play based on their good behavior. Faith’s website describes the annual game as “an annual football game between Grapevine Faith Christian School and Gainesville State School, a maximum-security facility of the Texas Youth Commission for juveniles. Coach Kris Hogan committed to this game in 2008, and with it, taught his players about the consequences of bad decisions while showing the players at Gainesville State that they were “just as valuable as anyone else on planet Earth.” Faith Students, family and faculty all attended the football game and cheered for the Gainesville Tornadoes. Because the game was such a positive success for the Gainesville youth and Grapevine Faith Christian’s students, it is now a permanent game held annually.”
Faith is not the only school that plays Gainesville. The difference with Faith comes from the fan interaction at the game. High school football in Texas is a different type of football. Under the Friday night lights, parents, teachers, and fellow students fiercely represent their school. When Gainesville State plays, every game is an away game. Their fellow students are not allowed to come, their parents might be in jail as well, or just do not care enough to come watch. The few faculty that attend to support the students are usually in the form of uniformed guards. When the Tornadoes arrived in Grapevine that night to play Faith, they were met by Faith fans wearing the Gainesville color of black and Faith cheerleaders on their sideline encouraging them. Then something amazing happened. While the school had planned for half of its cheerleaders to go over to the Gainesville side of the field and a few parents had been asked to support the Tornadoes, no one had expected the response they got. Minutes before game time parents and students began gathering to form a spirit line on the field. The Gainesville players were shocked to learn that the line was for them.
Gainesville is a correctional facility so their roster is always changing and players’ eligibility is dependent upon behavior. Therefore, unlike most high schools, their team is not always made up of the most athletic students. The team also loses players almost weekly and receives new ones just as quickly. Their team is not always the best, but they play the game right. To see smiles on these young men’s faces is the goal of Faith’s athletic mission. They strive to display God’s love in all they do both on and off the field. The Lions and Tornados prayed together at midfield after the game and Faith gave every Gainesville player a Bible to take home with them. The One Heart Bowl has now become an annual tradition and is the foundational center piece of Faith football.
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