Schools come together


Carolyn Diaz

Senior Lily Ray and Eastwood coach Julio Lopez hugging during the combined pep rally.

Avery Gregorash and Isis Kazadi

The Plano Wildcats and El Paso Eastwood reached across a curtain of hurt to play each other in one of the most symbolic football games in high school history.

In light of recent events PSHS had previously called off the game facing Eastwood, but after increased student and outside media pressure the game was back on. Not only was it back on, but it was moved to The Star after the Cowboy’s graciously let the two teams play on the field.

“The atmosphere meant everything,” Eastwood quarterback Chris Castaneda said. “They [The Cowboys] step on this field and now we’re playing on it.”

The Wildcats had a whopping 238 yards rushing in the game with, junior Jayden Chambers leading the pack with 124 yards. However, statistics appear grossly trivial when looking at what all this game has to offer to the collective community.

Several students and faculty wanted the game to be just as normal as any other, and focus on the game rather than allow the multitude of outside circumstances influence their end goal.

“This is a little bit bigger stakes than it needs to be but, under the circumstances we understand it,” Wildcats head football coach Jayden McCullough said.

However, the mass amounts of outside media made keeping the football game strictly about football very difficult and unattainable considering the gravity of the event.

“It’s not like any other game,” Coach Julio Lopez of El Paso Eastwood said. “I’ve never done this many interviews and we’ve never got this much media exposure.”

Right at the start of the game, after halftime and at the end of the game Eastwood all took a knee in the end zone and prayed.

“We come out and pray before the game,” Castaneda said. “We do it for the man above, and we’re doing it for Eddie Cruz.”

Not only did El Paso undergo the tragedy of losing 22 lives in the fatal shooting, but Eastwood had another tragedy just days before the game. Eastwood’s former wide receiver Eddie Cruz lost his life Sept. 2.

“I felt him with us,” Castaneda said. “He’s my brother and I’ll do anything on this field for him.”

With all of these heart wrenching occurrences, a very raw environment was established at the stadium.

“It’s a heavy burden that we sometimes put on kids to bring about healing,” said announcer Matt Cone. “We ask kids to bring communities together.”

Not only did the football teams operate in understanding, but the bands, cheerleader and drill teams got to get close with one another throughout the day.

“The game was an unforgettable experience for me,” Varsity cheerleader Alyssa Franks said. “I felt so blessed to be able to be a part of something so special, and to be able to share it with the beautiful ladies on the Plano and El Paso cheer squad.”

During breaks in the game the cheerleaders and drill teams got to talk, play games and otherwise bond on the sidelines.

“We got to spend the second half of the game with the other drill team and eat dinner with them,” senior lieutenant Ansley Willmann said. “It was great to be able to bond with them and make memories that we will all remember forever.”

Despite only having a few hours of joint practice, the bands put on a beautiful halftime show ending in playing the El Paso fight song and making a giant letter “E” with both the Plano and El Paso band.

“This game was the epitome of what Plano is about, love,” senior clarinet player Ashley Mirea said.

Even outside the actual game night, these groups had the opportunity to get to know one another at the team dinner in the cafeteria.

“We’re all band kids,” senior trumpet player Camille Cave said. “No matter how far apart we live we just get each other.”

The two opposing teams stepped up to demonstrate the act of healing in every aspect of the game, not allowing a scoreboard of jersey to separate them.

“Plano came out and showed us the best support all around the city,” Castaneda said. “It just goes to show were all human and at the end of the day we all love.”