Grace gives football experience to Azleway

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Not every young man gets to experience the Friday night lights in East Texas.

Every year, the Grace Cougars do their best to help a group of boys live that experience.

"Whether it is running out of the tunnel or the cheerleaders cheering or the band playing or them lining up for the nation anthem," said Grace head coach Mike Maddox. "It is a Tuesday, but it is Friday night lights for them."

It's a game Maddox loves to host.

For the 6th year, Maddox and his Grace Cougars invited the children from Azleway Boys Ranch to take the field with them.

"For some of these kids it is the 4th or 5th year they have been over here, so it gives us the chance once a year to renew some friendships," said Maddox. "They come over with some great memories and it makes great memories for us too."

"It helps us think about the big picture more, it is just a football game, but when we get the chance to change peoples lives that is real special," said Grace senior Michael Fedell.

Each year, Azleway helps more than 1,000 kids who are at risk or in crisis.

And each year, the Cougars open their field to them, to give them the experience of high school football in East Texas.

Complete with fans, the band and the cheerleaders.

"We want it to be fun since they do not get to do this, and we do, so we are blessed to be able to do it," said senior cheerleader Abby Smith.

Kade Clayton is set to have knee surgery tomorrow and won't play again this year.

But Clayton was on the field Tuesday, saying this is one game he would never miss.

"Most of them have not had that great of a life and it is fun to get them out here and get them pumped, like they are playing an actual football game."

Only in this game, no score is kept, because everyone wins.

"Of course, the biggest thing is showing love for these kids, but it helps us realize everything that we  are blessed with, and appreciate what we have and not take things for granted," said Fedell. "It is a big thing our team looks forward to every year."

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