By Brian New

IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) – The stands at Irving Schools Stadium were far from full Thursday night for the Irving High School football game, but there were a lot more fans on hand than in years past.

For several years the Irving High School Tigers drew one of the smallest crowds for home football games in the area.

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Irving High School has a rich history of football success and community support, but the team and community had fallen on tough times.

“It was really bad,” said senior cornerback, Marcus Orozco. “We didn’t have any fan support. There were like 20 people.”

Before last year, for three consecutive years the team won one a single game, but it was the struggles at home for players that often led to the thin crowds.

Greg Beauchamp, co-pastor of Christ Church in Irving, said some of his church members told him they were concerned that many of the players’ parents were not able to be at the games.

“So we came up with the idea what if our church adopts each player,” said Beauchamp. “One family adopts a player, and that’s how it all got started.”

Senior defensive lineman Kevin Nguyen said his parents have never been able to make it out to one of his games.

“So it feels so great having someone out there to just support me and my team,” he said of his “adoptive parents”, Jamie and Gary Mays.

The Mays’ have been to all his games this year and write him letters before and after each one.

On senior night Thursday, Nguyen asked the Mays’ to walk with him out on the field as the seniors were individually introduced.

“I know they will be there for me,” said the Irving football player. “I don’t even have to look in the stands. In my heart I know they are there. I know they won’t disappoint me.”

Head coach Aaron De La Torre reached out to the community to encourage them to attend the games when he took over the program two years ago.

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The former Irving High School star football player said the support has meant a lot to his players.

“We, of course, want our young men focused on the football game but they know who’s there cheering them on,” he said. “When they know they have that, I think it helps them play better.”

Marcus Orozoco said it’s like having a second mother.

As fast food manager restaurant trying to raise a family on her own, Orozoco’s real mother can’t always make it to the games, but his “adoptive parents”, Ann and Jack Lewis are always there.

“After the game you see them on the sideline and you give them a hug and they tell you good game. It’s great,” said Orozoco.

When asked what the relationship meant to her, Ann Lewis was overcome by emotion.

“The pleasure we get out of it I can’t explain it to you,” she said.

Beauchamp said the program has helped restore a sense of community in south Irving and had built relationships he says will last longer than any football career.

He said, “For them to be able to look up and see these people there and they care about the, that’s something we hope they remember the rest of their life.”

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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