High school football is a very big thing here in Texas. Everybody always comes out on Friday nights.
Those Friday night lights shine brighter in Texas, and on this field, a community ripped apart is coming together. Here is Yuval Day, football is a religion, and tonight, in the stands and in the sounds, you can almost feel the presence of a higher power. It’s the Coyote’s first home game of the season. It was just over three months ago that tragedy struck here, a gunman killing 20, 119 children and two teachers at Rob Elementary School.
Football will hopefully bring the community out, and find the reason to smile by enjoying watching our kids do what they love to do, and I believe that will help heal the community.
Heading into the season, that number 21 weighed heavily on the Coyote’s head coach, Wade Miller.
I called some of the seniors over, and I said, do we retire it? Do we give it to a senior? What do you all want to do? And they were unanimous. Oh, that would be awesome if somebody who represents the community were to wear that every year, be a different senior every year.
Justin, how did you wind up wearing number 21?
My coach and peers, we take a vote over who should wear it, and my coaches and peers looked at my hard work in ethics, and they chose.
Me for the job.
How do you feel about it?
I feel good, feel honored, feel blessed that I’m able to run out on Friday nights. And we’re 21.
He’s just not 21 on Friday night. I said before you take this. You’re 21 in town all year, and you can’t be a knucklehead. You have to be respectful. And he has handled it absolutely fabulous. He’s humble, he works hard, and he helps others. He’s kind. And those are all the kinds of things that we wanted in that player.
18-year-old Justin Rendon is also the team captain. His family mom, Vanessa, dad Eluterio, and two younger brothers are his biggest fans.
Knowing he’s out there wearing the 21, it’s a very proud moment. I’m very happy for him. I’m proud.
Justin’s youngest brother Evan was in school at Rob elementary. On the day of the shooting, Eluterio, a police detective from San Antonio PD, rushed home.
I couldn’t get here fast enough. All the wood started playing through.
My mind, but they were among the fortunate ones.
I ran for about a block before I found him, and then I saw his face. He looks up at me and he’s like, mom. I ran to him. I carried him. I picked him up, and he’s like, mom, why are you crying?
We all slept in a bed that night, and it was just difficult to process that there were families that weren’t going to be able to do that.
For some of the Coyotes, summer practice became a lifeline.
Mostly everybody was impacted by what happened. So just being able to go to strength and conditioning seven-on-seven practices and just bringing everybody together was like therapy so everybody didn’t have to feel the sadness and the sorrow. We all can lean on each other’s shoulders and we don’t have to feel alone.
A feeling the linebacker and his team want to extend to others in Uvalde.
It makes the team feel good that we’re able to just to uprise everybody on Friday nights and hopefully, those little kids get to come out and watch us win.
They talk about needing to win all the time and I try to calm them down and tell them, don’t put too much pressure on themselves. I think they feel like it’s their responsibility to kind of help them heal, which is not, but if that’s what they feel, then I’m going to support them in that.
Their first game of the season last week was an await game day, baby. All 54 players were determined to bring home a win.
When I was putting on the jersey for the first time, it was just a rush of emotions. Ready to go out there. Beat the Wildcats, lord, they are here to play.
In your name may you give them all the glory, in your name we pray, amen. I want you to think about all we’ve been through and I’m talking about everything. I’m talking about coaching change from the pandemic to the tragedy. You guys have been an inspiration to me never seen. I’ve been doing this for a long time. Now it is your turn to go out and be an inspiration to your team.
Take care of your business. Let’s go kick some masks. Ready?
The team charged onto the field, flying their flat Uvaldes strong. A sea of maroon in the stands to support the Uvalde team. Even the opposing team sports special decals. Once on the field, the Coyotes did not disappoint, giving the community something to cheer for again. The final score is carissa Wildcat’s 13. Yvette Coyotes 21. A pointed reminder of the 21 lives lost.
I don’t know where this ends in the games that I’m going as far as important because I want some big playoff games and things like that. But right now with the weight of the world on our work.
I was hearing my community cheer and chat. For us, it’s a lot of emotions coming in at once. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep fighting for the town and for the families and for everybody else. It just felt really good that I know they’re happy and they’re not mourning or sad anymore.
It’s funny because as a football dad, I want the score to be 100 and zero, but they want 21. And to me, it was just a sign that the 21 Angels are looking down at this community and saying that they’re here, that they’re still present, and that they will remain present.
On the eve of the team’s first home game, a big surprise and a show of support from local NFL heroes, including Texans head coach Lovie Smith.
How many Texan fans do we have in here? Oh, that was the wrong answer right there. That was the wrong answer.
And defenders Christian Kirksey and Camo Greg Hill, this table right here can lift this city to a whole new level.
Thank you, three. Thank you.
And tonight on the field, another win for the Coyotes, making it the 600 wins in the high school’s history.
A big win with my boys fought our hardest, but we never gave up. And, you know, that’s just what this town needed.
The Coyotes giving their fans and the community a reason to come together and cheer and to collectively feel just a bit of healing one tiny step at a time.
Hi, everyone. George Stephanopoulos here. Thanks for checking out the ABC News YouTube channel. If you’d like to get more videos, show highlights, and watch live event coverage, click on the right over here to subscribe to our channel. And don’t forget to download the ABC News app for breaking news alerts. Thanks for watching.