Quarter-Back BatesŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
ĎFore! Fore! Here comes the devastating Felton,
To all opponents ďThe Inhuman SkelítonĒ!í
The rhyme is obviously of the licensed sort! But you get the idea, donít you? Now, letís select a name. Which shall we start with?Ē
ďFord, sir. Thatís easy,Ē someone suggested.
ďVery well. Three minutes is allowed. When the time is up Iíll call ĎTimeí and you will at once stop. Ready? Everyone supplied with pencil and paper?Ē
ďAll set!Ē ďLet íer go, sir!Ē
ďNow!Ē said Mr. Matthews, his eyes on his watch. The laughter was stilled and fifteen pens or pencils were poised over as many sheets of paper. Then mutters arose and feet shuffled. ďSay, what rhymes with ĎFordí?Ē asked Timmins of Stanley in an audible whisper. Chuckles arose and De Vitt answered, ďĎFlivver,í Tim!Ē Dick was still struggling when the time was up and his second line was lacking a rhyme.
ďNow we will read the results in turn,Ē said Mr. Matthews. ďSuppose you begin, Harris.Ē
ďNot prepared, sir,Ē answered ďTipĒ Harris.
Three others answered to the same effect and it was Cashin who bashfully produced the first composition, as follows:
ďApollo had nothing on Goody Ford.
Heís cross-eyed and lantern-jawed.Ē
ďIngenious,Ē commented Mr. Matthews, when the laughter had stopped, ďbut rather a libel on Ford. Youíre next, Elders.Ē
ďI didnít get mine done, sir. I think your watch was fast!Ē
ďHow about you, Gard?Ē
ďGuess you might as well open that drawer, sir!Ē And Stanley read:
ďHe seeks no prize, does Goody Ford,
For virtue is its own reward.Ē
That won much applause, for Ford, whose appellation of ďGoody,Ē derived from his given name of Goodman, was no indication of his behaviour, had scorned to take part in the competition. Two other verses were read and then a second name was chosen. This time it was Cashin, and nearly everyone turned in something. The best of them, if applause was any indication, was Nealís:
ďI sing the praise of our Beau Cashin,
The latest cry in mode and fashion.Ē
ďThat rhyme requires a license, too, Neal,Ē laughed Mr. Matthews. ďI might say, fellows, that it isnít absolutely necessary to Ďknockí!Ē
ďNo, sir,Ē agreed De Vitt, ďbut itís easier!Ē
Which rejoinder brought De Vitt into the limelight, and his name was tried next. Gerald De Vitt was editor-in-chief of the school weekly, The Leader, a likable fellow who took himself a bit seriously, who wrote long, sensible and very dull editorials, and who mistakenly conducted a column of allegedly humorous matter that was the despair of his friends. Consequently when Stanley read his production the howl of laughter that arose held as much applause as amusement.
ďHere in our circle frowns the grave De Vitt,
Revered as Mentor and deplored as Wit!Ē
Later someone suggested trying ďMatthewsĒ and there were many dismal failures and just one quasi-success.
The latter was Dickís.
ďThough anger may assail our Matthews
His cheek neíer shows the sanguine wrath hues.Ē
In the end it was Stanleyís couplet on De Vitt that was voted the prize and Mr. Matthews gravely opened the desk drawer and as gravely presented the fortunate contestant with a large red apple! It was quite the largest apple any of them had ever seen, and, while it was passed around, the instructor explained that it was one of a plate of prize-winners at the County Fair. At Stanleyís request a knife was produced and the apple was divided into sixteen pieces and distributed. Mr. Matthews brought out the ďspreadĒ and for an hour longer the gathering munched delectable cookies and drank ginger ale and talked. On the whole, the occasion was a very enjoyable one, and Dick determined that hereafter his Friday evenings should be spent in Number 2 Williams. And, although he missed a ďpartyĒ now and then, he kept that promise to himself fairly well.
Parkinson played Cumner High School the next afternoon. Cumner was a nearby town of some eight or nine thousand inhabitants set in the middle of a prosperous farming community. The Cumner teams were made up largely of very hefty sons of the soil, averaging slightly older than Parkinsonís representatives and invariably out-weighing them. As a rule Parkinson won because of better knowledge of the game and greater speed. She called Cumnerís players The Farmers, but she did it with much respect and liking, knowing which Cumner took no exception to the title. In fact, the Cumner Football Team was one of a few that invariably received as hearty a welcome when it trotted onto Parkinson Field as did the brown-and-white eleven. Its members were big, manly, hard-playing chaps who took defeat gallantly and victory modestly.
Dick, of course, was not vitally interested in that game and as he was not required to report in togs today he and Stanley and Sid watched the contest from seats in a stand. Cumner showed up unusually formidable during the ten or fifteen minutes of practice that preceded the contest, and Sid, who, although a baseball man, knew football very thoroughly, predicted trouble ahead for the Brown-and-White.
ďThatís the heaviest team theyíve sent over since Iíve been here,Ē commented Sid, ďand they donít look nearly as slow as they generally do. And that black-headed giant down there hasnít missed a goal yet, although heís tried some fierce angles. No, sir, Parkinson isnít going to have any old walk-away this afternoon.Ē
ďOh, we wonít pile up more than twenty points, maybe,Ē said Stanley. ďSometimes we donít.Ē
ďYes, and sometimes we just squeak through, as we did two years ago. Seven-six it was that time. I remember I had heart disease when Sinclair got ready to try that goal. And then he wouldnít have made it if the ball had gone six inches further to the right.Ē
ďYou donít play football!Ē asked Dick. ďI mean, you never have?Ē
ďNo.Ē Sid shook his head. ďIíve always preferred baseball. I suppose I like it better because it gives more chance for individual work. Of course, if youíre a backfield player in football you have more show to work Ďon your own,í but a linemanís a good deal like a piece of machinery; the more heís like it the better he is. Now in baseball Ė Ē
ďHeís off!Ē groaned Stanley. ďYou shouldnít have got him started, Dick. Heís good for an hour now!Ē
But Sidís exposition of the advantages of baseball over the rival game was interrupted by the refereeís whistle and the thud of ďBabeĒ Uptonís toe against the ball. Parkinson had put in what was to date her strongest line-up: Furniss, Harris, Cupp, Upton, Newhall, Wendell, Peters, Stone, Gaines, Warden and Kirkendall. Opposed to them were eleven heavier and yet apparently rangy youths. Even the Cumner quarter-back must have tipped the scales at a hundred and fifty, and the ends were unusually weighty for their positions. But Cumner soon showed that weight and speed may go together. The kick-off fell on her twenty-yard line, was seized by a long-legged back and, with the team closing in ahead of him, the back ran straight ahead for fifteen yards before he was downed. Bob Peters had followed the short kick closely, but even Bob couldnít penetrate the close defence until three white lines had been crossed by the runner.
Three plays took the ball out of the danger zone and Cumner opened up with a dazzling forward-pass that put the ball well beyond the centre of the field. After that a penalty set her back and she was forced to punt. But three minutes later the ball was hers again, for Kirkendall, tackled on an end run, had dropped it and a Cumner youth had fallen on it. Again came a forward, this time far and swift, and Furniss, watching the wrong opponent, saw the pigskin settle into the hands of the Cumner right half. It was Stone who chased the runner out of bounds on Parkinsonís twenty-six yards.
ďWhat do you know about that?Ē marvelled Sid.
ďYou tell me,Ē said Stanley.
ďSure I will! Iíll tell you that I smell a score, sonny!Ē
ďOh, weíll hold íem off, all right. They wonít try any more forwards. Watch them crack against our line.Ē
But Cumner didnít crack. At least, she managed to make her distance in four and arrived at the Brown-and-Whiteís fifteen-yard line to the surprised dismay of the home rooters. The Parkinson left had been twice punctured for respectable gains and twice Cumner had slashed a path outside right tackle. Cumner had evolved a very satisfactory method for bottling Captain Peters, using a tackle, brought across from the other side of her line, and a back for the purpose. But, although the hundred or more Cumner supporters yelled in triumph and a touchdown seemed imminent, Parkinson for the time staved off a score. Two straight plunges at the left of her centre gained only two yards, and the Cumner right half walked back to kicking position. The angle, however, was difficult and few looked for a bona fide attempt at a field-goal. Consequently the short forward-pass that followed, from the Cumner right half directly across the centre of the line, didnít catch the home team napping. Gaines intercepted it and went plunging back into the m?l?e and made seven yards before he was stopped. Parkinson punted on first down and the ball was Cumnerís on her forty-six.
Stanley taunted Sid with the failure of his prediction. ďWhereís that score, you old gloom?Ē he demanded. ďDick, I donít want to say anything that might be construed into a criticism of our mutual friend, Mr. Crocker, but I must remark that heís a bum prophet.Ē
ďHold your horses,Ē answered Sid soberly. ďThat scoreís coming and itís coming mighty soon. Those farmers have found someone to teach them football. They know the game. Watch them for the next five minutes, Stan, and then tell me if Iím a bum prophet.Ē
ďIíll tell you so now,Ē replied Stanley cheerfully. ďI donít have to wait five minutes. Say what are those hayseeds up to? What sort of a silly stunt is that?Ē
Cumner had stretched her line across the field in a weird formation indeed. A horse and wagon might have easily been driven between any two of her linemen. Quite alone stooped the centre, the quarter eight yards behind him and the other backs apparently no longer interested in anything he might do. To meet this scattering of forces Parkinson likewise spread out, but she did it less whole-heartedly, keeping her centre trio pretty close together. Her backs adopted the ďbasket formationĒ well behind the line, for it seemed that Cumnerís queer arrangement of her players must portend some novel type of forward-passing. Yet, when centre lined the ball back to the quarter, nothing extremely novel developed. The outspread line dashed forward straight toward the opponentís goal and the quarter, delaying a moment, sped off at a slight angle, the ball cupped in his arm. To his support came two backs. But Parkinson, after a brief second of hesitation, concentrated on the oncoming trio, and, although Cumner netted six yards on the play, the Brown-and-Whiteís adherents howled ironically. That even six yards had been gained was merely because Parkinson had refused to believe her eyes and had waited too long before going in. Another time, jeered Stanley, theyíd be lucky to get an inch!
Cumner tried her full-back against Parkinsonís right and lost two of the six she had won. This was from ordinary formation, as was her next attempt to skirt Bob Peterís end. On the latter play she made a scant yard. Then, while Parkinson rooters laughed and hooted in good-natured derision, Cumner again broke her line apart. What followed this time, however, was far different. When the ball was shot back to the quarter the Parkinson centre trio made straight for that youth, bowling the centre out of their path. The quarter seemed to the onlookers unusually slow and even at a loss, for after a moment of hesitation he made a tentative stride to the right, stopped, faced the attack undecidedly and then dashed away at a surprising speed toward the right side of the field. A back had already shot off in that direction and was some fifteen yards beyond the quarter when the latter, deftly eluding the Parkinson left tackle, whirled, stopped and shot the ball away at a lateral pass. Parkinson had unconsciously drawn in toward the quarter-back, even her left half having wandered from his position, and when the Cumner half, catching the pass neatly, again threw the ball forward there was none near the receiver. The latter was the Cumner right end who had, almost unseen, trotted down the field just inside the boundary. That second pass was fairly high and it seemed that Kirkendall would reach the receiver in time to spoil it, but he didnít quite succeed. The best he could do was give chase along the edge of the field and, at the last, defeat the effort of that speedy Cumner right end to centre the ball behind the Parkinson goal. Stone, too, was in the race, but, like the full-back, never reached the runner until the line had been crossed.
Cumnerís supporters went wild with joy, and long after the pigskin had been punted out from the corner of the gridiron to a waiting left guard, their howls and cheers arose from across the field. Sid forebore to say ďI told you so,Ē but Stanley sadly apologised. ďI retract what I said, Sid,Ē he stated dolefully. ďYouíre not a bum prophet. Youíre a prophetic bum!Ē
Cumner kicked goal easily after the punt-out and when the ball had again sailed through the air the first quarter ended. That twelve-minute period, however, spelled ultimate disaster for the home team, for although Cumner did not score again, Parkinson failed to score at all! Twice she came near to it, once in the second quarter and once in the third. In the second she slammed her way to Cumnerís seven yards, lost ten yards on a penalty, and failed of a field-goal by inches only. In the third period she reached her opponentís four yards only to have Kirkendallís last effort fail by a scant six inches. That was bitter medicine to the Brown-and-White, and after that failure all the fight seemed to have gone out of her. In the final period, with many substitutes in, she showed some life, to be sure, but there wasnít punch enough left to make her dangerous, and Cumner, still playing with her first line-up practically intact, kicked out of danger whenever it threatened.
Going back to the campus after Cumner, cheering and singing, had marched triumphantly under the goals, Sid predicted a shake-up in the team. ďYou canít tell me,Ē he said, ďthat we had any right to get licked today. That flukey play of Cumnerís that got them their score may have been unpreventable, although I donít think so, but where we fell down hard was in that third period when K couldnít get across. It isnít allowable for a Parkinson team to get to the four yards and not get over. It isnít done among the best Parkinson teams!Ē
ďI thought,Ē observed Dick, ďthat Kirkendall should have been sent around tackle on that last play. Weíd hammered their centre three times and they were looking for us to do it again and theyíd massed their whole secondary defence behind it. Seems to me Ė Ē
ďI think so too,Ē agreed Sid. ďGive íem what they arenít expecting, is my motto. Stone ought to have kept them guessing. His idea, I suppose, was that if he hammered the centre long enough it would weaken. Even their backs couldnít have stopped a score if the line had busted, Dick. You see, we needed only a yard at the last and weíd have got it if their centre had weakened a bit more. Itís easy to criticise from the grand-stand, but itís likely that Stone knew more than we did about those fellows he was facing. He probably had good reason to think he could smash K through there. Must have or he wouldnít have persisted the way he did. Well, weíll have to do better next week or weíll get a good trouncing.Ē
ďPhillipsburg?Ē asked Stan. ďYes, thatís so. We play them on their grounds, too, and that makes a difference. Hang it, I wish weíd tried a goal from the field that last time. Even three points would be something! It looks like the dickens to have those farmers whitewash us! We havenít been whitewashed for ages!Ē
ďMaybe we needed it, then,Ē chuckled Sid. ďBut you know Bob Peters well enough to be certain he wouldnít be satisfied with three points when he might get seven. Not Bob! Heíd want to win or tie. Just getting a consolation prize wouldnít appeal to him, Stan.Ē
ďIt would to me, then,Ē muttered Stan. ďYou going to Phillipsburg?Ē
ďNo, I canít. Weíve got a sort of a game on Saturday with Warne High School. It doesnít amount to much; six innings and we to use second-string pitchers; but itís likely to be about the last chance of the season to try some real work. You expect to go?Ē
ďI donít know. What about it, Dick?Ē
ďIíd like to. Is it much of a trip?Ē
ďNo, a couple of hours. Iíll go if you do, I guess. Got any money?Ē
ďYes. Iíll stake you. Will many of the fellows go?Ē
ďA lot,Ē answered Sid. ďI think Blash intends going. Well, see you later, fellows. Weíll be over about seven.Ē
ďThatís right,Ē exclaimed Stanley joyfully. ďThis is movie night! Oh, you Douglas Hart! Oh, you Bill Fairbanks! So long, Sid!Ē
The shake-up predicted by Sid didnít come, although several experimental changes were tried in the line-up the next week. Dick learned from Cardin that Coach Driscoll had taken a large share of the responsibility for that defeat, declaring that he should have supplied the team with a better defence for the one-man pass. Dick and Cardin had taken to each other and, during scrimmage when Stone was running the First Team against the Second, usually sat together on the bench. In a measure they were rivals, but Cardin was second-choice quarter and Dick Ė well, Dick was so far down on the list that his number didnít matter. Stone, Cardin and Pryne were the quarters who would be depended on this season, and Dick sometimes wondered why he and two other aspirants were retained. But they were, at least until the Friday of that week. Then Dick alone remained and could flatter himself if he chose to with the title of fourth-string quarter-back! With the passing of the two superfluous quarters came the elimination of a half-dozen assorted candidates and the First Team was down to less than forty players.
It had been decided that Dick and Stanley, Blash and Rusty were to accompany the team to Phillipsburg on Saturday, and, when that day arrived, go they did. But they didnít go together, for on Friday afternoon, after the players were back in the locker room in the gymnasium, Manager Whipple read the names of the thirty-one fellows who were to report at eleven the next forenoon, and lo, the list began in this surprising manner:
ďAbbott, Abernathy, Banker, Bates Ė Ē
So Stanley, Blash and Rusty Crozier travelled to Phillipsburg in the twelve-ten accommodation, while Dick, one of a small army of players, coaches, trainers, rubbers and managers, departed in style at eleven-forty on the Springfield Express which, for that occasion only, was scheduled to stop at Phillipsburg at twelve-fifty-four. They walked to the station, each with his togs in a bag, and presented a fairly formidable army as they marched by twos and threes down School Street. Small boys stood spellbound in awed admiration and elderly citizens smiled or frowned according to their sympathies: for Warne is still a somewhat old-fashioned town and there were still those who looked with disfavour on the rude sport of football.
At the station Billy Goode and his assistants were waiting beside a baggage truck piled high with paraphernalia, and the assistant manager, who, as he would become manager next year, must learn his trade by serving an apprenticeship to which fell the hard work, was standing nearby importantly frowning over an envelope full of round-trip tickets. He had counted the contents of the envelope three times and had got a different result with each count. Stearns Whipple relieved him of further responsibility by pocketing the tickets uncounted while the assistant dug up the balance of the eighty dollars entrusted to him. The express came in twelve minutes late Ė being late was a long-standing habit of the express Ė and they piled aboard. Seats were few and Dick was among the dozen or more who were forced to stand or sit on their up-ended suit-cases in the aisle. At the first stop after Warne, however, Dick and Warden were lucky enough to fall heirs to the seat of an elderly couple nearby who for twenty minutes had displayed intense bewilderment over the somewhat boisterous horde of boys who had invaded the car. Dick thought he read intense relief on the prim countenance of the old lady as she left.
ďI wouldnít be surprised if Mr. Driscoll used you today, Bates,Ē said Warden when they were speeding on again. ďI have an idea that itís been decided to put in a practically fresh line-up in the second half. No one cares an awful lot whether we win from Phillipsburg, and itís about time some of the second-string fellows got a good tryout.Ē
ďBut Iím not a second-string fellow,Ē demurred Dick.
ďN-no, but I think he means to give all his backs a whack at it this afternoon. If you do get in, old man, just keep your head steady. Donít let anything or anyone rattle you. If you look out for that youíll make good, I guess. Another thing, Bates. Donít be afraid of hustling the team. A team likes to work fast. Itís the waits between plays that raise the dickens sometimes. Keep us going. And talk it up a lot. That helps, even if it does sound crazy on the side-lines. Scold, too, but donít nag. Stone nags too much. And Cardin doesnít whoop it up enough. I tell you, Bates, a fellow likes to feel that his quarter is right on the job, that he isnít missing a trick and that heís standing by every minute. I donít know if I make myself quite clear. But, for instance, when Iím playing I like to feel that all Iíve got to do is mind the quarter, that he knows what heís doing. I want to have implicit confidence in my quarter. Then I can play ball. If I donít have confidence I canít. I get to thinking: Whatís he mean by that? That isnít the play for the down. Suppose heís mixed on his signals: Is the ball going to be there when Iím ready? And I lose confidence in my own ability to make the play good.ŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
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