Right Guard Grant
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ďI donít suppose Iíll even get a smell of the big game,Ē he said sorrowfully. ďRennekeríll play at right and Stimson at left, and you and Falls will be next choice. It was that big guy that queered my chances.Ē
Leonard didnít have to ask who was meant. Instead he said comfortingly: ďYou canít tell, Raleigh. You might beat Stimson yet. And youíll surely have it all over me for first substitute.Ē
But Raleigh shook his head. ďNot a chance, Grant. I know a real player when I see him, even if Iím getting to be a dub myself. Youíre a live-wire. I wouldnít be surprised if you got Stimsonís job before the Kenly game.Ē
ďMe? Much obliged for the compliment, Raleigh, but I guess Stimson isnít frightened much! I havenít got the weight, you know.Ē
ďYou donít seem to need it,Ē replied Raleigh enviously. ďYouíve got speed to burn. Wish I had a little of it!Ē
The next day Leonard was called to the training table, where he took his place between Lawrence and Wilde and where, after his second or third repast, he was no longer Grant but ďGeneral.Ē On Wednesday he discovered with something of a thrill that Coach Cade was taking him seriously as a candidate for a guard position, for he was given a hard thirty-minute drill in blocking and breaking through in company with Renneker and Stimson and Raleigh and Falls. Soon after that, just when Leonard didnít know, Squibbs disappeared from the football squad. It will be remembered, perhaps, that not long before Coach Cade had erased a name from a page of his little book.
It was on Thursday evening that Johnny McGrath appeared at Number 12 Haylow in response to Leonardís invitation. Both Leonard and Slim were at home, and Johnny had no cause to doubt that he was welcome. The conversation was not particularly interesting. Or, at least, it wouldnít sound so if set down here. There was one subject not included in the many that were discussed, and that was the resemblance of Gordon Renneker to George Ralston. Just before he left Johnny said, a trifle hesitantly: ďBy the way, Slim, heard anything about Saturday?Ē
ďAbout the dinner, do you mean?Ē Slimís eyes narrowed.
ďYes. I wondered if youíd heard any Ė er Ė any rumors.Ē Johnny looked very innocent just then. Slim shook his head slowly.
ďNothing much, Johnny. Have you?Ē
ďWhy, I donít know.Ē Johnny appeared undecided. ďYou see, Iím a junior, Slim, and maybe I oughtnít to give away any freshman secrets.Ē
ďHuh,Ē Slim grumbled, ďif it wasnít for you fellows putting íem up to the mischief Ė Ē
ďSure, I had nothing to do with it,Ē laughed Johnny. ďAnd what I heard didnít come from my crowd. íTis just something I accidentally came on.Ē
ďWell, out with it. What are the pesky kids up to?Ē
ďIím not knowing that, Slim.Ē
ďWell, what the dickens do you know, you Sinn Feiner?Ē
ďAll I know,Ē replied Johnny evasively, as he opened the door, ďis that if I was President of the Sophomore Class Iíd be watching out mighty sharp come Saturday evening.Ē Johnny grinned, winked meaningly and vanished.
ďHumph,Ē said Slim.ďHe does know something, the silly ass.Ē He started up as if to go after Johnny, but then sat down again and shrugged his shoulders. ďHe wouldnít tell, I suppose.Ē
ďWhat do you think he was hinting at?Ē asked Leonard.
Slim shrugged again. ďHow the dickens do I know? I dare say the freshies have cooked up some plot to make me look silly. Maybe they think they can keep me away from the dinner. All right, let them try it!Ē And Slim looked grim as he began to disrobe.
On Saturday Leonard made his first trip away from Alton with the football team, being one of twenty-six fellows who journeyed to New Falmouth. Last fall Alton had just managed to defeat the clever High School team by one point, and to-day the visitors werenít looking for any easy victory. It was well they werenít, as events proved. New Falmouth was too powerful for the Gray-and-Gold. With only one more game on her schedule, and that against a rival high school of smaller calibre, New Falmouth was in position to use everything she had in to-dayís contest. And she certainly held nothing back. Last seasonís game, lost to her through her inability to convert two touchdowns into goals, had been a disappointment, and she fully intended to take her revenge.
Coach Cade started with several substitutes in his line-up, but this was not because he held the enemy in contempt. His real reason was that he hoped to hold New Falmouth scoreless in the first half of the game and use his best talent to tuck the victory away in the last. But that wasnít to be. Before the second quarter was half-way through Johnny Cade was hurling his best troops onto the field in a desperate attempt to turn the tide of battle. For by that time New Falmouth had scored twice and had 10 points to her credit on the score-board while the visitors had yet to show themselves dangerous.
Leonard didnít see service until the third period. Then he went in at left guard in place of the deposed Stimson. The score was still 10 to 0, and Alton looked very much like a beaten team. New Falmouth had a powerful attack, one that was fast and shifty and hit hard. No place in the Gray-and-Gold line had proved invulnerable in the first two periods, while the home team had run the ends with alarming frequency. Only Altonís ability to pull herself together and stand firm under her goal had prevented the enemyís score from being doubled.
Leonard had Jim Newton on one side of him and Sam Butler on the other when the second half began. He had not played beside Butler before and didnít know the tall youthís style of game as well as he knew Billy Wellsí, and for awhile the two didnít work together any too smoothly. In fact, the left of the Alton line was no more difficult to penetrate than the right until Leonard discovered from experience that Butler went about his business in a different fashion from that used by Billy and began to govern his own play accordingly. Butler couldnít be depended on, for one thing, to back up attacks between left guard and center. Such plays always pulled him in and left him fairly useless. Also, he played too high much of the time, a fact that invited more attacks at his position than Leonard approved of. Yet, when once these facts had been learned, Leonard was able to discount them to an appreciable extent and before the third period was more than half over New Falmouth was less attentive to that side of the adversaryís line.
Leonard knew that he was playing football, and extremely hard football, before the third play had been made. New Falmouth got the ball on the kick-off and started a battering-ram attack that bore the enemy back time and again. Leonard went through some punishment then, for the first three plays were aimed at the Alton left guard and tackle. He acquired a bleeding nose in the second of them and a bruised knee in the third. About that time he got interested and began to really fight. Captain Emerson went off with a bad limp and Kerrison took his place. Not much later Bee Appel, after having been aimed at since the game began, was finally downed for good and Carpenter took over the running of the team. The third period ended without further scoring, although the ball had stayed in Alton territory most of the time and was still there.
A penalty for off-side set Alton back another five yards nearer her goal just after play was resumed, and, when she had been held for two downs on the twenty-two yards, New Falmouth tried a goal from placement. For once, however, the line failed to hold and half the Alton team piled through on the kicker and the ball bounded off up the field and was captured by Reilly, of Alton, on the thirty-six yards. Alton made first down on two plunges and a six-yard run by Menge. Then, however, after three more attempts, Greenwood punted to the home teamís twenty-five, where the ball went outside. New Falmouth made two through Renneker and tore off five more around Kerrison. A third down was wasted on a plunge at center that was repulsed. Then New Falmouth tried her third forward-pass of the game, and the ball landed nicely in the hands of Slim Staples close to the forty-yard line, and Slim dodged to the thirty-two before he was stopped.
Here, it seemed, was Altonís chance to score at last, but after Carpenter had attempted a run following a delayed pass and had centered the ball at the sacrifice of a yard, the chance didnít look so bright. Greenwood made a scant two at the New Falmouth left, and then, with nine to go on third down, and Greenwood in kicking position, Carpenter called for an end-around play with Slim Staples carrying. Just what happened Leonard didnít know, but somewhere between Jim Newton and Slim the ball got away. Leonard heard Carpenterís frantic grunt of ďBall!Ē and swung into the enemy. Then he felt the ball trickle against his foot, thrust aside for a moment and dropped to a knee. When he got his hands on the pigskin the battle was all about him, and cries and confusion filled the air. Yet he was able to thrust himself up again through the m?l?e, and plunge forward, and, having taken that first plunge, to go on. He met a back squarely and caromed off him into the arms of another, broke loose somehow and went forward again. The goal-line was startlingly near, and he made for it desperately, slanting first to the left and then doubling back from a frenzied quarter. He and the quarter met and, spinning on a heel, he staggered over the line, a New Falmouth man astride him as he fell.
Unfortunately there was no one left on the Alton team who could kick a goal once in five times, and Joe Greenwood, who tried to add another point to the six, failed dismally. The fault wasnít entirely his, though, for New Falmouth broke through and hurried the kick. But even to have scored was something, and Leonard, still wondering just how it had happened, was appraised of the fact in most emphatic language and actions. Over on one side of the field a half-hundred or so of Alton sympathizers who had accompanied the eleven were shouting ecstatically and wildly. Denied victory, they made much of that touchdown.
The ball went to New Falmouth for the kick-off, and Leonard sprang away to repel the invaders. Behind him, Carpenter got the pigskin, juggled it and tried to run it back, but two New Falmouth ends downed him fiercely. On the second play Greenwood got clean away around the left end and made it first down on the thirty-yard line. Just as he was jubilating hoarsely over that Leo Falls came romping on, hailed the referee and joyfully slapped Leonard on the back.
ďYouíre off,Ē he announced. ďLetís have your head-guard.Ē
Leonard looked unbelievingly at him. ďOff?Ē he gasped. ďMe?Ē But the referee was waving impatiently, and Leonard pulled off his helmet and turned sadly toward the bench. The world seemed just then filled with ingratitude and injustice, and the cheer that hailed him fell on unresponsive ears. Jake hurried out to enfold him in a blanket, mumbling fine phrases, and Mr. Cade said something as Leonard passed to the bench, but the dayís hero was not to be salved so easily. From the bench he sadly watched the game to its end and witnessed, in the closing moments, the addition of another 3 to New Falmouthís 10. Life was very dark!