HUTTO, Texas — For a sport that is tough as nails, you do not let your guard down often.
"I believe we should come out from this game with a win," said Hutto football right guard Makhi Proctor.
But every once in awhile, there is a circumstance that changes everything.
"I think we need to stand tall" as a country said Hutto ISD athletic director and head football coach Brad LaPlante.
On Friday night, he was coaching the Hutto Hippos against El Paso's Del Valle Conquistadors – a team that is far away from home, where tragedy hit last month.
"Too many of these tragedies are going on," said LaPlante. "It's sad that it becomes normal. It shouldn't be normal."
More than $2,000 has been raised so far from the "Hippo Nation is El Paso Strong" shirts for El Paso first responders.
And for Hutto fans who sat on the visitors' side, the Hippo Cafe gave coupons for free appetizers.
"I am thrilled with the turnout," said Hippo Cafe owner Stacie Feller. "These kids traveled a long way, and there was no way we could stand by and let them play to empty stands."
Feller said she handed out all 200 coupons to a filled-up visitors' side.
"I think it just shows how much character Hutto has as a community," said Proctor, "but also as a program. Just because they're from a different city or different part of Texas, we're still going to show them love as if they were part of our community."
These students put themselves in their opponents' shoes.
"I think I would be able to play," said Hutto football linebacker Jayson Vogelpoh, "just knowing that I could maybe make people of that town proud and do everything I could for them. It would be hard though. It would be real hard though."
For these young men, these moments are more than a game; it is a learning experience.
"It brings character, teamwork," said Al-Mair Ward, Hutto football defensive end, "all those things that you need to further and better yourself in life."
So when an opportunity comes to honor others, this community steps up.
"You're great, but you're not elite until you go and affect others," said LaPlante.
Eduardo Quintana's grandson is a senior on Del Valle’s football team. He said it was unusual to see an opposing team cheer for them.
"We've always been rivals wherever we go, and we're friends here," said Quintana.
Hutto staff, who are originally from El Paso, presented the Del Valle team with a canvas and a painted hippo that said, "Hutto is El Paso Strong."
The Hutto High School band also played Del Valle's school song before the game.
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