MATT PRATER (James Blackwell), in "Facing the Giants," was a student at Shiloh Christian Academy (Albany, Ga.) The 2003 football season, in his junior year, changed his life, as it changed the life of the school.
Matt came to Shiloh from Westview, which had kicked him out for failure to apply himself academically. But that was only one symptom of his basic problem. The other: his never-right relationship with his father, Neil Prater, a big-league real-estate developer.
The turn-around for him came, oddly enough, in the week before Shiloh played Westview, their fourth game of the season. After the Tuesday afternoon practice (the one in which Brock Kelley did the Death Crawl all the way down the field with Jeremy Johnson on his back), Head Coach Grant Taylor told him he ought to show his father more respect, simply because Neil was his father, and that was the proper relationship between father and son. Matt didn't get the point that day. But the next day, the Bible teacher brought his Bible class out to the football field. Something about that lesson, the setting, and Coach Taylor's pep talk to him the day before, clicked. Matt stood up and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and personal Savior. Nor did he stop there. He went about the class, confessing every stupid prank he'd ever pulled on any of them.
That started a revival movement that spread to the whole class. Somewhere in the process, Coach Taylor, along with Mr. Ryker, the A. D., came out to see what was going on.
Matt took his chance. He asked Coach Taylor to take him downtown, to talk to his father. Coach agreed. Matt wondered whether Coach's broken-down car would make it, but they did. And so Matt went in to his father's office, and told his father, in front of another man, Mr. Jones, that he, Matt, got right with God that day, and from then on, whatever his father said, would go.
He left, and Coach brought him back to school.
Friday evening came, and the Shiloh Eagles beat Westview.
The win gave Matt confidence, and he carried this over into his studies. His teachers noticed. So did his father, when test results came back--much more positive.
Came another Friday night, and another win.
The next day, Matt's father made a snap decision. He used some of his considerable funds to buy a new Ford F-130 pickup, in the name of Grant Taylor. On Monday afternoon, Neil and Matt swapped this truck out for Coach Taylor's dilapidated car, leaving him a note (ostensibly from the whole team) and the title, all made out to him.
Matt took that car to the local body-and-paint shop and had it repainted bright red, the color of the Shiloh Eagles, so Coach would never recognize it. He also put in a new battery, and found a lot of other things wrong with the engine, and fixed them all. (This doesn't appear in the film, but it is exactly the sort of thing a boy like Matt would do in that case.) And as his father instructed him, he never said a word to Coach or anyone else about Coach's truck, or where it came from, or what became of Coach's car.
Shiloh did not lose another game for the rest of the season, and so came into the playoffs. The first playoff game didn't go so well; Princeton Heights cleaned their clocks. Still, Matt said to the team, "Win or lose, we praise God." Monday afternoon, Coach summoned them to the field--to tell them that Princeton Heights, having fielded two ineligible 19-year-olds, was disqualified, and Shiloh would advance to the next round.
Shiloh, of course, went on to win the State championship, against the Richland Giants, a team of eighty-five against Shiloh's thirty-two.
In the next year, Matt's senior year, Shiloh won the State championship for the second time in a row.
In 2005, he entered the University of Georgia on a football scholarship. And he never forgot Coach Taylor or that memorable championship season.