ESPN 'Parkland 17' Film Honors the Stoneman Douglas Football Team and Their Late Coach

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Helmets off, the football players gathered around their coach and knelt down in the locker room.

Hand in hand or hands on each other's backs, the players in their burgundy uniforms followed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High's football coach Willis May as he led them in prayer.

So begins the new ESPN documentary "Parkland 17" which followed the Eagles over the course of their 2018 football season in the months following the Feb. 14 school shooting that killed 17 students and faculty members. One of those slain was assistant football coach and campus monitor Aaron Feis, a 1999 graduate of the school and former MSD football player.

Much of the film, which airs Sunday at 9 a.m., is a tribute to Feis, regarded as a hero who was killed trying to save students after hearing there was someone in the school with a gun.

"He didn't think. He just did his job," May says in the documentary. "He just went to take care of those kids."

"I can't even be upset with him because he did just a good thing," added sister Johanna Feis.

The documentary recounts the horrors of the massacre through the memories of the Eagles' football players and through cell phone footage. ESPN cameras also document the team as it forged ahead to get back on the field for practice two months later.

See Also: Why Victims' Families Are Seething Over Broward Schools' Handling of the Parkland Shooting

"I hope when people watch this the reaction is this is one strong community, school, football team to endure something like this," said the documentary's producer Martin Khodabakhshian, who was at the school the day after the shooting. "To still be going through it, they will forever be going through it. But the fact that this team, and this is one small portion of the school, even had a season, thought to honor their coach, thought to honor all the 17."

Eagles quarterback Ryan Kavanaugh said in the documentary that "as the practices went on, pushing each other to go harder in practice, pushing ourselves, it became much easier."

During the practices, the players pumped themselves up by saying "1..2..3..Feis up!"

There's also a scene in the documentary that shows how May had left his Feis' school desk untouched, with boxes of videos stacked and game plays still out.

"That's the way he left it," May said. "I can't touch it."

Before the players practiced or competed in a home game, they'd rub the stomach on a giant banner featuring Feis with a thumbs up. Each letter of his last name represented the words "fearless, emotion, intensity, sacrifice."

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"We tried to incorporate him and remind us to play for him, to play for us to just really incorporate it all to try and win our games," said offensive lineman Gage Gaynor.

From winning their first game on the road to winning their first home game of the season (by 17 points), the documentary portrayed the team pulling together and healing.

"17 no longer means that a terrible thing happened," said Kavanaugh, the quarterback. "It really means come together, strive through adversity and nothing can really tear us apart."

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