In November 2008, a unique high school football game took place between Gainesville State School and Grapevine Faith in Grapevine, Texas.
Even though the event took place three years ago, the story of the game is suddenly going viral.
According to ESPN magazine, the Gainesville State Tornadoes reached the Grapevine Faith field on a Friday night, and were greeted by an unusual scene. The Grapevine fans were cheering for them -- the rival team -- instead of their home team. The fans then formed a 40-yard spirit line for the Tornadoes to run through with a banner painted with "Go Tornadoes" waiting for them at the end. Plus, half of Faith's cheerleaders rooting for the opposing team.
"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," Gainesville's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah told ESPN. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!"
Even though the Tornadoes ultimately lost that game, 33-14, the Gainesville players were so pumped up that they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he'd just won the Superbowl.
So why all the effort for a rival school with a 0-9 record?
Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game they play is on the road and the players are escorted to and from the field by 12 uniformed guards with handcuffs in their back pockets.
Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, decided that he wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team during their football match, reported ESPN.
Faith had never played Gainesville before but Hogan knew the odds of Gainesville winning were slim. Faith had a 7-2 winning record and Gainesville had only scored two touchdowns all year. According to ESPN, Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest football equipment and involved parents. Gainesville, on the other hand, has teenagers with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery -- all wearing 7-year-old shoulder pads and outdated helmets.
So, Hogan sent a message to the Faith community. He asked that half of his fans cheer for the Tornados, half of the cheerleaders root for them, and everyone know the rival team members by name.
Not everyone was initially excited about the idea. According to ESPN, one Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"
Hogan replied, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you."
"Here's the message I want you to send," Hogan said. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth."
It was a strange experience for the boys from Gainesville.
"I thought maybe they were confused," Alex, a Gainesville lineman told ESPN. "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us?'"
"We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," added Gerald, another Gainesville player. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"
That night, the Gainesville players played the best game of their lives, scoring two touchdowns.
After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead.
"We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan.
According to ESPN, Isaiah said, "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."
As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus, they were each handed a bag for the ride home -- a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible, and an encouraging letter from a Grapevine Faith player.
The Gainesville coach also found Hogan after the game and grabbed him by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."
In the wake of the game, Gainesville is a different place, reports Ref Stripes.
"It’s like people’s hearts really have changed," superintendent Gwan Hawthorne said.
"The boys, a lot of them, just hadn’t had anybody care about them," Styles, who has taught at the school for five years, told Ref Stripes. "When they saw that, they brought that back. And then their peers heard that these people cared about them -- really cared about them, not just throwing money at them or throwing a bag of stuff at them."
Both teams have since garnered national attention.
The story even caught the attention of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who was so moved that he invited Hogan and his wife to be his guests at Super Bowl XLIII.
"They showed that football is more than a game, that there are important things other than the outcome or the score," Coach Dale Meinecke of Garce Prep, another school in the area, said. "It’s about people, it’s about relationships."
While Hogan and his football team have continued to show support for all their rival teams they always remember Gainesville State first, reports Pegasus News. The annual game between Grapevine Faith and Gainesville State is known as the One Heart Bowl. Every year, fans are split between the two teams, and, as part of admission to the football game, they are encouraged to bring ankle socks and gloves for Gainesville students, who are in need of basic items.
The One Heart Bowl has also lent its name to a new movie about the original Gainesville vs Faith game. Still in pre-production, the movie boasts acclaimed director Mark Ellis and is being produced by Eterné Films in association with Birchwood Pictures.