The Grapevine Faith Lions and the Gainesville Tornadoes battled it out on the football field Friday night, but this was one game where the final score didn’t matter as much as the life lesson. And everyone, it seems, left a winner.
The Tornadoes are from the Gainesville State School, a maximum-security lockup for children who have committed serious crimes.
They named the game the "One Heart Bowl." It started three years ago.
"The lesson is, for our students: You are one choice away from being where they are," said Jon Brooks, campus pastor at Grapevine Faith Christian School.
For the young offenders, he said, the game offers hope.
"And let them know, too, that a bad choice doesn't have to mean your destiny. And so, there's hope. There's hope," Brooks said.
The Grapevine school embraces the other team, offering them support in a number of ways. For example, a number of parents dress in black and white -- the opposing team’s colors -- and sit on the visitor’s side to give their team and equal amount of cheering.
The Tornadoes say it works.
"It gives me hope, that hope ain't gone, you know what I'm saying?" said Raymond Greer, 18, who was locked up a year ago for aggravated robbery. "They're giving us the trust, you know what I'm saying, that we can come off the campus where we're housed at and come into the community. They're giving us that trust to come out here and play a game."
For the Lions, too, it's so much more than just a game.
"I think I get a sense of fulfillment, a sense I've done something greater than myself," said Ashton Dunnington, 16, a junior at Grapevine Faith Christian. "It fills me up and gives me a joy."
And in a game, they find hope that a better life is worth the effort.
"I've been locked up for 13 months," Greer said. "I've found myself. I've grown up. I've matured. I'm looking forward to doing better. I will do better."
Among those cheering on the Tornadoes’ were several of the players from the first game three years ago. Now free, they returned as fans.
Watch NBCDFW sports anchor Matt Barrie's original story, which was awarded the Edward R.Murrow Award:
A Game of Hope