High school football players from El Paso are in North Texas ahead of Thursday's game against Plano Senior High.
The two teams are connected by the Aug. 3 mass shooting in very different ways. The accused gunman was a Plano Senior High graduate.
"It's impacted all of us in a big way, but we also know that football and the normalcy of football can be a huge boost in the healing process and getting back to our everyday lives a month removed from that," said El Paso Eastwood High Head Football Coach Julio Lopez.
The game almost didn't happen. Plano ISD initially canceled the game after the mass shooting, citing security concerns. The decision was met with swift public backlash and Plano ISD reinstated the game after Frisco ISD offered to move one of its football games to allow the teams to pay at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco. [[559427172,C]]
"At the end of the day, the right decision was made," said Lopez.
"It just feels great, we finally get to be here, finally get to play Plano," said Eastwood quarterback Chris Castaneda. "When they brought it back, we were excited - especially with the circumstances: we get to play at The Star."
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The Eastwood Troopers faced a second tragedy this week after a teammate drowned over Labor Day weekend. Castaneda said his team would be playing in Eddie Cruz's honor.
"We're just going to be out here doing it all for him, we're going to play for him, that's what he loved to do: play football," said Castaneda.
Thursday night's game won't be a typical away game for the El Paso team. Businesses and community members in North Texas have reached out to the team to offer food and an after party following the game.
"There are so many people that have been so welcoming to us that we're just very grateful. We're very grateful to the people of North Texas," said Lopez.
Eastwood and Plano Senior High faceoff at 7 p.m. on Thursday at The Star.