ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) ― When you think of how a coach might prepare his team for their first football game, you may think of extra practices or gym time, but for Winters ISD’s head coach, his priority was a little different. This year, he is prioritizing supporting the opposing team. 

“Everybody in West Texas is out here for Cross Plains right now,” said Winters ISD’s head coach, Matt McCarty. 

When Coach McCarty found out about the football player in Cross Plains who lost his life on August 7, he knew his team needed to step up to support the community. This is mainly because it brought him back to a time when his team faced something similar – losing one of their own nearly eight years ago. 

“People from other towns came to the funeral and things like that,” Coach McMarty said, explaining that this is what helped his team get through that difficult time. 

Parents in the community began suggesting that everyone wear purple to Winters’ first game of the season to show the other team they care. Immediately, the coach jumped on board, and so did Superintendent Sean Leamon. 

Supt. Leamon knew Ryan, as he used to coach him on a YMCA team. He told KTAB/KRBC Ryan and his son grew up together in a way. 

“Just a happy-go-lucky kid that everybody liked,” Supt. Leamon recalled. 

While money gathered through a fundraiser Winters ISD is hosting won’t bring Ryan back to his loved ones, Supt. Leamon said he hopes it might make the terrible time for Ryan’s family a little more bearable. Through grief, bills still have to be paid.

Superintendent of Cross Plains ISD, Dade Cosby, expressed his appreciation for the support from all over the Big Country – including Winters. 

“I don’t think it helps with the grieving,” Supt. Cosby pondered. “I think what it does is it just lets you know that people are there for you.”

While emotions continue to run high as everyone continues to mourn, Coach McCarty wants Cross Plains to know:

“Before and after the game, we’re going to be there for them.”

The game will begin at 7:30 on Friday evening, and Supt. Leamon added that the fundraiser will be held outside of the gate, so if anyone wants to participate without going to the game, they are welcome.