- Associated Press - Saturday, August 23, 2014

MONTROSE, Colo. (AP) - There are two members of the Montrose football team missing this year.

Within a two-month span, Montrose High School students Garret Middleton and Grayson Burris lost their lives in tragic accidents. Both were athletes and played football for the Indians.

Their stories reached ears across the country, eventually forging a connection between one player’s family and Sony Entertainment.

“Family isn’t just blood relatives.”

Those were the words shared by De La Salle coach Bod Ladouceur in the new movie, “When the Game Stands Tall.”

The movie, based on a true story and set to be released Friday, is about California’s De La Salle High School football program as the team and its athletes fight through their own tragedies, including the death of a teammate. The narrative hit home with those who knew of Montrose’s story in 2014.

The idea of bringing the film to Montrose came up in June, but became a reality on Aug. 1. Sony Entertainment agreed to show an early screening of the film, and the support from San Juan Cinemas and other donors helped take away any cost away from the football players.

Coach Todd Casebier said the loss of two young men has been tough for the community at all levels, from families, to students and friends.

“A movie is not going to change any of that,” he said. “This was based on a true story where stuff like this unfortunately happens and that you can move forward from it the best you can. You’re never going to forget but hopefully you can move forward and learn some lessons from it that will help you down the road.”

Middleton, who would have been a sophomore this year, passed away after a farming accident on April 19, and then Burris, who would be a senior, died helping a friend who had fallen into the “potholes” in Escalante Creek on June 5.

The football players didn’t know about the special screening until last Friday evening after practice. The players, coaches, families and special guests of the football program filled the theater at the San Juan Cinemas, which provided discounted popcorn, candy and drinks for the team, along the use of the theater.

James TenNapel, who brought the connection to Casebier and helped organize the screening, said the losses of Middleton and Burris affected many different people, leading to the special screening.

“You guys know what’s happened, we know what’s happened,” he said. “There are some kids not here.”

“It’s about more than wins or losses, you guys know that from your coaches,” he added.

Senior quarterback Kameron DeVincentis said the screening was a good bonding experience for the team. The Indians were busy prepping for their first game Friday against Grand Junction. The loss Burris and Middleton will stay on their minds throughout each practice.

“It will definitely go through the season with us,” DeVincentis said. “It will always be there. We’ll have that in our heads for the whole season.”

“When the Game Stands Tall” is showing at the San Juan Cinemas starting Aug. 22, the same time the Montrose football team was fighting its own battle on the field against Grand Junction, down two men.

“Some of our team were close friends with both of them,” Casebier said. “It wasn’t about our team as much as it’s about the families of those young men.”

___

Information from: The Montrose Daily Press, http://www.montrosepress.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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