City high school football teams well fed before Friday night games

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Many high schools have booster clubs & strong parent involvement to provide pregame meals for their football teams. That support is often not available for city football teams. The Central Indiana Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) has partnered with Second Helpings this season to feed Indianapolis Public Schools varsity football teams pregame meals & provide character coaching.

The program feeds about 250 players a week at six schools (Attucks, Tech, Shortridge and Washington - plus charter schools Howe and Manual). Food prep starts on Thursdays at Second Helpings, a food rescue organization that makes about 4,000 prepared meals every week to be served to the hungry around Indianapolis. The Tech football team is served on Thursday nights. The other five schools receive their pregame meal on Friday.

Friday pregame preparations begin with dinner for the Washington Continentals shortly after school dismisses, more than four hours before kickoff. A football team can eat plenty of food. The Continentals enjoyed a good, hot pregame meal with chicken, vegetables, salad and breadsticks.

"Not only does it help our children be able to eat a pregame meal, but it also financially helps us as coaches to be able to use some of those resources in other areas that we need in our program,” said Washington High School head coach Steve Moorman. “So, it has been huge for us.”

The pregame prep actually begins at Second Helpings on Thursday on the near southeast side of Indianapolis. FCA has run the program from staff homes for just a couple of city schools the past three years. Second Helpings involvement allowed FCA to extend the program to all the IPS high school football teams.

"It keeps them in the high school,” said Kathy Jones, Second Helpings Director of Hunger Relief. “That way they're there for the game. Some of them don't have the transportation. Their parents may work, or they may not have a ride to get back to the game. Or when they go home they may not have any food to eat because of their situation."

FCA staff and volunteers warm up and the organize the meals early Friday afternoons at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church. Staff members head to the high schools, where the meals are served, and a speaker serves us up some spiritual and character coaching.

"We bring the food in with the help of Second Helpings and Tab (Tabernacle Presbyterian Church) now this year and feed them these great meals,” said Todd Townsend, Central Indiana FCA Area Director. “We become their booster club. We stand on the sidelines with them. We encourage them. We cheer for them."

Coach Moorman says if he sent his players home after school Friday, many could not, or would not, return to school for the game later that afternoon. For home games, the team eats a meal at the school served by FCA staff and the coaches. For road games, the city football teams receive box lunches to take on the bus.

With the pregame meal comes character coaching. Former University of Wisconsin and Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Ethan Hemer spoke to the Continentals Friday.

"No one remembers how many tackles I had or sacks,” Hemer told the team. “None of that really matters in the long scheme. It's all about how you treat people, how you treat your teammates."

"It's nice because it's free,” said Washington senior linebacker Darren Reese. “Then IPS is not paying for it. So, we get a meal. Then a dude comes and usually talks about God and stuff. A lot of people don't get that at home.”

After Hemer, who now works at Marian University in fundraising, finished his talk and answered a few questions, Townsend asked the team to reach out and touch someone as the group closed in prayer.

"Help us to make our city better I pray. Keep them safe tonight as they play, in Jesus' name, amen.”