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Faith and football come together

Players meet at midfield before the TAPPS Division I state championship game between Bishop Dunne Catholic School and Bishop Lynch High School on Dec. 3 at Panther Stadium in Hewitt. Bishop Lynch High School won 21-17. (KEVIN BARTRAM/Special Contributor)

Players meet at midfield before the TAPPS Division I state championship game between Bishop Dunne Catholic School and Bishop Lynch High School on Dec. 3 at Panther Stadium in Hewitt. Bishop Lynch High School won 21-17. (KEVIN BARTRAM/Special Contributor)

 

By David Sedeño
The Texas Catholic

By now most people know that Bishop Lynch High School won the TAPPS Division I state football championship over crosstown rival Bishop Dunne Catholic School, but it was what they did before the game that brought a bishop almost to tears.

The two high schools met Dec. 3 at Midway High School stadium in Hewitt, with both teams scoring all their points in the first half and Bishop Lynch hanging on to win 21-17, avenging an earlier loss during the regular season and turning back Dunne from earning a state championship. The Oak Cliff school had gone to the state playoff game the past three years.

But two days before the kickoff, the teams traveled a shorter distance to meet on neutral territory—the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe for a Mass celebrated by Bishop Greg Kelly, the diocese’s apostolic administrator.

Bishop Kelly talked about the respect the teams had for each other and that he hoped that they would bring out the best in each other as competitors during the state title game, which he said stood in stark contrast to the taunts and racial slurs that the Bishop Dunne team experienced occasionally during the regular season.

Students from both schools brought up the gifts during the Mass and reached across the aisle during the Sign of Peace. After Mass, they gathered for a pizza lunch in the Gran Salon and heard from the presidents of both schools talk about the importance of community and respect for each other.

A Bishop Dunne cheerleader and the Dunne mascot lead a parade through the halls of the school at the start of a pep rally before the Falcon's game with rival Bishop Lynch on Dec. 2 at Bishop Dunne Catholic School in Oak Cliff. (BEN TORRES/Special Contributor)

A Bishop Dunne cheerleader and the Dunne mascot lead a parade through the halls of the school at the start of a pep rally before the Falcon’s game with rival Bishop Lynch on Dec. 2 at Bishop Dunne Catholic School in Oak Cliff. (BEN TORRES/Special Contributor)

 

Peace, Pride
Other players and administrators from both schools spoke to media who had gathered for the Mass and lunch.

They all talked about the tradition of rivalry between the two schools and that the Mass had allowed for a sense of peace and pride prior to the big game.

“It’s always nice going to a school where we can celebrate our faith and that’s what we have here in the Diocese of Dallas,” said Cole Garcia, a Bishop Lynch offensive lineman. “We have two schools that can come together, during school, to celebrate our faith together, act as a community as Jesus calls us to, come together as one and really act as a family.

“Normally when we meet it is a little more physical, aggressive, but now it’s peaceful; it’s smiles; it’s handshakes,” he said. “It’s showing that we really are a community here in Dallas.

“The message I think we are sending is that football is a family. Football is not just about going at each other and trying to rip each others’ heads off,” Garcia said. “Football brings people together as a family, it builds character, it molds men and it really prepares you for life. That’s the message I think we are sending.”

Payton Matous, Bishop Dunne’s center who will be on the football team at the University of Pennsylvania next year, said that the Mass showed that the schools are more than just about football.

“It shows unity within the church and within our diocese,” he said. “We are able to come together because after Saturday the football season will be over and we will all have to go on being members of this community. So this was a good way to bring us all together and show that unity.

“We’re really big rivals. I think this is one of the biggest rivalries in the Metroplex,” he said. “That will make for a fantastic game.”

Shaine Hailey of Bishop Dunne, left, and Will Gates of Bishop Lynch walk the gifts of the Eucharist to the altar during a Mass of Thanksgiving Dec. 1 at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe ahead of the TAPPS Division I state championship football game between the two teams on Dec. 3 in Hewitt, Texas. (JENNA TETER/The Texas Catholic)

Shaine Hailey of Bishop Dunne, left, and Will Gates of Bishop Lynch walk the gifts of the Eucharist to the altar during a Mass of Thanksgiving Dec. 1 at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe ahead of the TAPPS Division I state championship football game between the two teams on Dec. 3 in Hewitt, Texas. (JENNA TETER/The Texas Catholic)

 

Coming together
The idea for the Mass and meal came after discussions earlier in the week between Chris Rebuck, president of Bishop Lynch High School, and his Bishop Dunne counterpart, Kate Dailey.

“Part of what our communities are dealing with is helping with the formation of the whole student and knowing that they don’t check their baggage at the door when they come to school,” Rebuck said.

“They’re feeling the stress and anxieties that many of us feel in society,” he said. “This is an opportunity to really see how sports can elevate human potential to the highest level beyond the competition of the game and to encourage these young men to see this as much more than just an athletic competition.

“This is an opportunity to bond and to form friendships and to really display excellence on and off the field in a special way,” he said.

Dailey, acknowledging taunts, racial epitaphs the team experienced over the year, added that the message of the Mass and meal together showed others that Dallas Catholic schools are taking a leadership role in civil discourse between the schools.

“A lot of these boys have come up together from elementary schools and now will go on to college together,” she said. “So we have to make sure that they are able to stand up for what is right; to stand up against any kind of hatred and divisiveness in their future lives and to be able to enjoy each other both on the field and off the field.

“Competition with honor is great. They’re brothers, all of them, underneath everything,” she said. “I think that’s something that Bishop Kelly, in particular, is inspiring us to do and leading us to do to make sure that we open a conversation and that we have civility in our athletics.”

Education, Tolerance
And it was Bishop Kelly who extended his homily message later on Dec. 1 when accepting the first Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell Upstander Award given by the Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance.

He told those in attendance at an evening reception at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek about the two teams coming together for Mass and lunch earlier in the day, pushing back emotions when describing the racial slurs, epitaphs and atmosphere that Bishop Dunne players, cheerleaders and community faced during the year at opposing stadiums.

“The African-American players and coaches at Bishop Dunne over the past several years have been subjected to racist remarks on the field, having been called ‘boy,’ the ‘n-word,’ and finding nooses in one of the locker rooms they were using when they were the visiting team,” he said, adding that the work of the museum continues to be important.

“I am so proud of them,” he said, referring to the Bishop Dunne community, “because they were looking for ways to stand up for themselves and stand up for their own dignity and it was a work of solidary between Bishop Dunne Catholic School and Bishop Lynch High School to stand up for each other.”

Bishop Lynch players hold the championship trophy following the TAPPS Division I state championship game on Dec. 3 at Panther Stadium in Hewitt, Texas. Bishop Lynch High School won 21-17. (KEVIN BARTRAM/Special Contributor)

Bishop Lynch players hold the championship trophy following the TAPPS Division I state championship game on Dec. 3 at Panther Stadium in Hewitt, Texas. Bishop Lynch High School won 21-17. (KEVIN BARTRAM/Special Contributor)

 

Lessons Learned
On Dec. 3, after the game, Bishop Lynch players, coaches and families talked about the joy and excitement of winning a championship under first-year Head Coach Chuck Faucette, but they also talked about the Mass and meal two days earlier that helped prepare them, in a different way for the title game.

Bishop Dunne Head Coach Michael Johnson said that his players were obviously disappointed, but that he told them that their achievements over the past three years would raise the bar for future generations of players at the Oak Cliff school.

And he also talked about the community support, the competition that Bishop Lynch brought to the game and the Mass and meal and its relevance beyond the football field.

“There was great spirit from both really good programs and good schools, both of us in the Diocese of Dallas,” he said. “To see that atmosphere, our underclassmen really didn’t understand the true rivalry of Bishop Lynch and Bishop Dunne and a lot of those guys understand that now and understand the tradition between the two schools.”

For more photos from the Mass and state title game, visit our PHOTO GALLERY.