Right Guard Grant
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The first presented a line-up of substitutes, with Gurley and Kerrison playing end, Lawrence and Cash tackle, Squibbs and Falls guard, Muller center, Carpenter quarter, Kendall and Goodwin half and Dakin full. Leonard, huddled in a blanket on the bench, forgot the cold in the cheering knowledge that sooner or later Johnny Cade would be sure to call on him. Johnny Cade did, but not until the second period. Meanwhile Lawrence and Cash took plenty of punishment from the cocky scrubs but managed to hold out. Second was certainly on her toes this afternoon, and nothing the first could do prevented her from scoring. It was only a field-goal, for the first, pushed down the field to her twenty-yard line, held gamely through three downs, but it meant three points for the scrubs and much exulting. With a strong wind almost behind him, the second’s left half could hardly have failed to boot the pigskin over.
First wrested the ball away from second a minute or so later and started a march toward the opponent’s goal. Kendall got away with a nice run of a dozen yards, and Dakin twice got half that distance through left guard. Goodwin plugged hard, but it was not his day. Carpenter tried a quarterback run and made it good for eight yards, placing the ball on second’s twenty-four. Kendall went back and faked a try-at-goal, taking the pigskin on a wide end run that netted him little but exercise. Then a forward-pass was tried, but, short as it was, the wind bore it down, and first was lucky not to lose possession of it. With two downs left, Kendall again threatened a field-goal, but passed the ball to Dakin, and the full-back smashed through the enemy left for four. On the same play Dakin added enough to make it first down on the fourteen. Then, with first already tasting success, the whistle ended the period!
The scrubs crossed the field to sit in a closely huddled group like a lot of blanketed Indians and Leonard watched Mr. Cade hopefully. But when the second period started the coach made but two changes in his line-up. Raleigh went in at right guard and Wilde at right tackle. Leonard, disappointed, looked searchingly up and down the bench. So far as he knew he was the only tackle remaining. In fact, only less than a dozen fellows were left now, and he didn’t think there was a lineman among them. He didn’t wish Lawrence any bad luck, but it did seem that he had played about long enough!
First had a streak of luck right at the start of that period, for a second team back fumbled on his forty-four and, although second recovered the ball, the next line-up was close to the twenty-five-yard line. Two punches and then a punt into the gale that carried a scant twenty yards, and the ball was first’s in scrub territory. The first attack sent Goodwin at the enemy’s center for a two-yard gain and when the warriors had disentangled themselves one form remained on the ground. Jake seized water bottle and sponge and trotted out. “That’s Raleigh,” said the fellow at Leonard’s right.
“Sure?” asked Leonard anxiously.“I thought maybe it was Lawrence. No, there’s Lawrence. You a guard?”
The neighbor shook his head sadly. “Half,” he answered.
They had Raleigh standing up now and Jake was leading him toward the bench. Coach Cade’s voice came imperatively.
“First team guard!” he called.
The trainer echoed the summons impatiently as he neared the bench. “Come on, one of you guards!”
Leonard threw off his blanket and bent mutely to the neighbor and the substitute halfback seized his sweater while Leonard pulled himself out of it. Then he dashed onto the gridiron. Jake was a dozen feet away, still supporting the scowling Raleigh.
“What’s the matter?” he asked. “Deaf? Didn’t you hear the coach yelling?” Then he stared harder, at Leonard’s back now, and called suddenly: “Here! You ain’t a guard!”
But Leonard paid no heed. Perhaps the wind bore the words away from him. He went on, aware, as he gained the waiting squad, of the coach’s puzzled gaze.
“I called for a guard, Grant,” said Mr. Cade.
“Yes, sir,” answered Leonard. “I’ve played guard two seasons.”
“Maybe, but you’re not a guard now. Send some one else on. Isn’t there any one there?”
Mr. Cade shrugged. “All right. You take it then. You deserve it, I’m blessed if you don’t! Come on now, First Team! Let’s get going! All right, Quarter!”
Leonard stepped in between Garrick and Cash, Carpenter chanted his signal and the lines ground together. Why, this was easy, reflected Leonard. It was just like old times. He knew what to do here. When you were a guard you were a guard and nothing else. You didn’t have to understudy your next door neighbor and go prancing around like a silly end! Of course, when a shift took you around to the other side of the line, as it was doing now —
Leonard whanged into an opponent and tipped him neatly aside as Kendall came spinning through. Three yards, easy. Maybe four. This was “pie!” He got back to his place again and grinned at his second team adversary. The scrub player answered the grin with a malignant scowl. Leonard laughed to himself. He always liked the other fellow to get good and peeved; that made it easier. Dakin was stopped short on the next play and Kendall went back. A second team back tried to sneak inside of Leonard, and Leonard gave him a welcoming shoulder. Then there was the thud of the ball and he pushed an adversary aside and sped down the field, the gale behind him helping him on. He was under the ball all the way and was hard by when Kerrison upset the scrub quarter for no gain. The pigskin was on the second’s fourteen now, and the second realized its difficulties. Kicking into that wind was a thankless job. If you kicked low your ends couldn’t cover the punt. If you kicked high you made no distance. Even a forward-pass, were you rash enough to attempt it under your own goal-posts, was doubly risky. So second tried hard to get a half-back around an end, first at Gurley’s post and then at Kerrison’s, and made but four yards altogether. It seemed then that second must punt, but she had one more trick up her sleeve. She sent an end far out to the left, shifted to the right and sent the full-back straight ahead. Well, that wasn’t so bad, for it added another four yards to her total. But it was fourth down, and the wind still blew hard against her, and punt she must at last. So punt she tried to.
That she didn’t was primarily due to the ease with which Leonard disposed of his man and went romping through the scrub line, quite alone for the instant. A half met him, and the impact, since Leonard had his hands thrown high, almost drove the breath from his body. Yet the damage was done, for the second team kicker was too hurried to punt. Instead, he tucked the ball to his elbow and shot off to the right in a desperate attempt to circle the first team’s end. But there was Gurley to be considered, and Gurley dropped his man very expeditiously and neatly for a six-yard loss. Whereupon first took the ball, lined up on the scrub’s sixteen and hammered Goodwin and Dakin over for the score.
Then Kendall booted a nice goal and made it seven points, and going back up the field Carpenter and Dakin and half a dozen others whacked Leonard on the back and pantingly told him that he was “all right,” or words to that effect. Then first kicked off again and went after another touchdown. You might criticize the second’s science, but you had to acknowledge that when it came to fight she was right on hand! Second didn’t hold with Mr. Cade or Quarterback Carpenter when they assured the first that there was another score to be had. Second denied it loudly and with ridicule. She dared first to try to get another score. First accepted the challenge with ejaculations of derision and the trouble began again.
You mustn’t think that Leonard played through some ten minutes without receiving his share of censure from the coach and the quarterback, for nothing like that happened. Mr. Cade showed little partiality, and every one came in for criticism or rebuke. What Carpenter said worried Leonard very little. Quarterbacks are always nagging a fellow. But he did wish, toward the last, that Mr. Cade would stop barking at him. Of course he knew that he didn’t play the position perfectly, but he was doing his best, gosh ding it, and no one was making any gains through him! If only he was a little bigger and had more beef he’d show Johnny some real playing!
As it was, though, he was doing so well that the coach was secretly marvelling. Mr. Cade viewed Leonard’s height and his none too broad shoulders and then glanced at the big Garrick on one side and the rangy Cash on the other and wondered. “When,” reflected the coach, “he told me he was a guard he knew what he was talking about!” Much of Leonard’s success this afternoon was due to following Billy Wells’ advice. Leonard looked his man in the eye and discovered that, in some strange fashion, he could tell what the chap was going to do a fraction of a second before he started to do it. It was almost like mind-reading, Leonard thought. And he profited, too, by the other tips that Billy had given him. He couldn’t adopt Billy’s stance thoroughly, but he did try a modified form of it and found that it gave him a quicker start. And to-day no one drove his head back and made him see whole constellations of wonderful stars! No, sir, the old chin was right in against the neck!
First didn’t succeed in scoring again, but she did throw a scare into the adversary in the final minute of play. By that time Leonard’s original opponent had been replaced by a fresher but, as it was soon proved, no more formidable youth, and Mr. Fadden had made other substitutions in his array of talent. So, too, had Mr. Cade, although the latter’s resources were nearly exhausted. Cruikshank went in for Carpenter, and a new half-back appeared. Cruikshank brought a little more “pep” to the first, and she got the pigskin down to second’s twenty-eight yards. There, however, the enemy stiffened and tightened and took the ball away on downs. Wisely, she elected to punt on first down, but there was a poor pass, and the ball was missed entirely by the kicker. It hit him somewhere around the feet and bounded to one side. Instantly twenty-two youths made for it. Some four or five reached it more or less simultaneously. Of the number was the first team right guard. How that happened was a subject of official investigation later by Mr. Fadden. However, the second team’s troubles are not ours. What interests us is the fact that not only was Leonard the first man through the second team line but he was the first man to lay hand on the ball. He accomplished the latter feat by diving between two hesitant adversaries and, being doubtless favored by luck, capturing the erratic pigskin during one brief instant of quiescence. A fraction of a second later that ball would have toppled this way or that, or jumped into the air, eluding Leonard’s grasp just as it had eluded others’, but at the instant it had presumably paused for breath. Anyhow, Leonard reached it and pulled it under him and tucked his head out of the way. Then half a dozen of the opponents sat on him more or less violently or tried to get covetous hands on the prize. The whistle blew and finally he breathed again. Having been pulled to his feet, his breathing was again disturbed by emphatic blows on his back or shoulders accompanied by brief but hearty expression of commendation. He was still fighting for breath when Cruikshank piped his signal, and Dakin drove harmlessly into the second team line. Then, to the intense disgust of the first and the vast relief of the second, with the ball on the seventeen yards and a score as sure as shooting, some idiot blew a whistle!
There was almost a scrap about that. Up in the locker room Dakin accused Winship, the assistant manager who had acted as timekeeper, of having cheated the first of a score. “Time,” answered Winship coldly, “was up when the whistle blew.” “Yah,” responded Dakin impolitely. “You’re crazy! You didn’t see straight! Bet you there was a good thirty seconds left!” “There was not! If anything, you had a second more than was coming to you, for the whistle didn’t blow until I’d called to Tenney twice. No use being sore at me, Dakin. Much better have done something when you had the ball that time!” “Is that so?” snarled the full-back. “How’d I know you were going to cheat us out of – ” “Don’t you say I cheated!” “Well, what do you call it, you fathead? Step up to the gym with me if you’re looking for trouble!”
But some of the others stepped in just there, and hostilities were prevented, and somewhat later Dakin, having been cooled by an icy shower-bath, apologized handsomely and the entente cordiale was re?stablished.
That evening, his briar pipe drawing nicely and his feet comfortably elevated, Coach Cade turned the pages of his little memorandum book and made marks here and there. Once he reversed his pencil and, using the rubber-tipped end of it, expunged a name entirely. The last thing he did was to draw a black mark through the words “Grant, Leonard” and through half a dozen mysterious hieroglyphics that followed them and then, turning a page, enter the same words again very carefully in his small characters. At the top of the latter page was the inscription “Guards.”