High School Football

Plano reinstates Week 2 football game with El Paso Eastwood after social media backlash

El Paso residents grieve at memorial

El Paso residents grieved at a memorial for 22 people who were killed in a mass shooting on Saturday. The suspected shooter is from Allen.
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El Paso residents grieved at a memorial for 22 people who were killed in a mass shooting on Saturday. The suspected shooter is from Allen.

Just 24 hours since deciding to cancel a Week 2 high school football home game with El Paso Eastwood, Plano ISD announced they had reinstated the game on Friday.

Originally scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sept. 6 at Kimbrough Stadium in Murphy, the game will now take place at 7 p.m. on Sept. 5 at The Star in Frisco.

Fort Worth Arlington Heights and Frisco Lebanon Trail was scheduled to play at The Star that night, but both teams agreed to move their game to Toyota Stadium in Frisco.

“Frisco ISD had reached out to me and have The Star as the host site for this very important game,” Plano ISD Superintendent Sara Bonser said during Friday’s press conference.

The decision to cancel had come two weeks after the El Paso shooting on Aug. 3 at a Walmart that killed 22 people. The shooter, Patrick Crusius, graduated from Plano Senior in 2017.

The game was canceled by Plano ISD, which cited “safety concerns” and that it was “too soon after the tragedy,” but there were no credible reports from administrators in the past 24 hours.

“Knowing the facility (at The Star) provides a level of security that warrants this unique situation,” Bonser said. “We thank the generosity and community spirit from our neighbors in Frisco, and appreciate [them] to allow us to play this game that we all wanted to play.

“I wanted to make a point that three districts in the state of Texas [came together] to find a solution to keep the kids safe without taking away the opportunity to play.”

“I wanted to express much appreciation to those that stepped forward to assist to make it possible to play this game,” Plano principal Dr. Sarah Watkins added.

Always about safety, not an insult

Plano ISD sent out a press release after Thursday’s decision to cancel: “As the greater El Paso community continues to cope with the loss and devastation experienced on August 3, Plano ISD Superintendent Sara Bonser opened a dialogue with Ysleta ISD Superintendent Dr. Xavier De La Torre regarding the second annual out-of-district matchup between Plano Senior High and Eastwood High, scheduled for September 6. After consulting with local law enforcement agencies, Plano ISD administrators felt obligated to prioritize the safety of the participating players, students, families and communities, and have concluded that the timing of the game falls too soon after the tragedy in El Paso.”

Eastwood is less than three miles away from the Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall.

Eastwood offered to host the game, but Plano declined. Eastwood head coach Julio Lopez was willing to travel anywhere to replace the game, according to El Paso Times writer Felix Chavez.

According to WFAA’s Mike Leslie, Plano Senior High “had been raising money for El Paso, in anticipation of their game against Eastwood. Now that the game has been canceled, some of the players are planning to drive the eight hours to El Paso, to deliver the money they raised to Coach Julio Lopez.”

“This was never about anything but safety,” Bonser said. “It is on me to make a decision about safety and security. I hope that’s what the community wants from its superintendent. It was never intended as an insult.”

Plano ISD expressed on Friday that there were no other viable options for a new venue and that an “open-air” stadium wasn’t even a thought among administrators.

Joe Soto helped 6 people hide in safety when a gunman open fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 people.

24 hour backlash

Plano ISD had received much scrutiny from social media with the majority against the decision to cancel.

Students from Plano even started a petition to bring the game back. More than 600 people had signed it as of Friday afternoon, but that wouldn’t have affected Bonser’s decision.

“A petition without a safer venue wouldn’t have changed my decision,” she said. “Safety comes before popular opinion.”

Politician Beto O’Rourke even tweeted on Thursday, “We welcome Plano ISD to come play the game here in El Paso, our strong, safe, beautiful, bi-national community. Together, we can make it clear that racism and hate have no place in our state or this country. And the proceeds could go towards helping those impacted by this tragedy.”

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Born and raised in Hawaii, Brian Gosset graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in journalism before coming to Texas in 2014. He’s covered high school sports — yes, pretty much every high school sport — for the Star-Telegram ever since.