Ralph Barbour.

Right Tackle Todd





On Friday, although the gridiron was still soggy and slippery under a cloudy sky, the squad held outdoor practice for two full hours. Two very full hours indeed, Jim thought. With half the first-string players on the bench, the big team met the second for thirty strenuous minutes and failed to score in spite of the fact that three coaches bellowed and thundered, threatened and implored. Twice the first reached the second teams ten-yard line and twice it was forced to yield the ball. Field-goals were not in Mr. Cades philosophy this afternoon, and so that means of scoring was denied. However, even though the second was time and again given an extra down, it was equally unable to pass its opponents goal-line, and the wearied and somewhat disgruntled first team players derived some satisfaction. After a five-minute rest a team of substitutes was run out and the first eleven, somewhat changed, was sent against it with instructions to use only forward-passes. There was ten minutes or so of that added insult, during which Jim, without really trying and without knowing it, somewhat distinguished himself as the receiving end of several tosses, Kruger, playing right end, being shifted to the other side of the line at such times and leaving Jim eligible. It was almost too dark to see the ball when Jim made his final catch of a long heave toward the side-line that netted a good eighteen yards to the first, and that play ended the work. In the evening there was an hour of drill in the gymnasium followed by a brief quiz by the coach. And then, on Saturday, Mount Millard came charging down on Alton, with most of her students in the line of march that wound through town from the station, and when Josh Plant, down to play right half in place of the absent Billy Frost, glimpsed the team as it romped away from the gymnasium he turned strickenly to Steve Whittier and grasped his hand.

Tell them, he said tremulously, that I died game, fighting against tremendous odds!

CHAPTER XVII
ALTON MEETS WITH DISASTER

The Gray-and-Gold presented a line-up that afternoon that lacked the names of four of its best players. Smith was at right guard in place of Captain Gus Fingal, Mulford played left tackle in place of Roice, Plant substituted Frost at right half and Barnhart ran the team. It was still a moot question whether Kinsey or Latham was first-choice quarter-back, but Barnhart was undeniably third-choice, and to-day, in the absence of both the others, he was faced by a stiff proposition. As Josh Plant had intimated, the visitors were a fine, sturdy looking lot, and they outsized Alton both in the line and the backfield. That they would score was a foregone conclusion. Whether Alton would score, too, was problematic. Watching the visitors perform during the brief warming-up session, many Alton partisans were flat-footed in the assertion that Coach Cade had erred in weakening his team as he had.

Before the first half was well along it had become evident that nothing save a miracle could save the home team from defeat.

And miracles, as we all know, as often as they are longed for, seldom happen on the football field. Mount Millard found a soft place in the Alton line early in the game and pounded Smith for repeated gains. Varying attacks at right guard with off-tackle plays, the visitors rushed from their own thirty-five-yard line to Altons twenty-eight. There Cooper was sent in for Smith and two tries at the new incumbent gained but four yards and Mount Millard shot a forward-pass to the twelve yards. Levering was caught napping and Whittier reached the receiver too late to spoil the catch. Steve did the next best thing, however, and threw the enemy hard on the ten-yard line. Mount Millard wasted a down in an attempt to carry the ball out-of-bounds, missing by inches. Faking a similar attempt, she got three outside of tackle on the other side and landed the ball on the seven yards. Here an off-side penalty put her back to the twelve and she faked a try-at-goal that turned out to be a plunge inside tackle. Mulford was put out neatly and a Mount Millard back crashed through to the five-yard line. Scorning a fairly certain three points, the enemy tried a complicated cross-buck which, since the play had all the ear-marks of a forward-pass, nearly won her a touchdown. It failed, though, by a half-yard and Whittier punted on first down from behind his goal. Catching on Altons thirty-eight, the visitors started a second advance but lost the ball near the twenty-five just before the quarter ended.

At the resumption of hostilities Alton tried hard to get her attack going, but twice the enemy broke through and stopped the runner for a loss, and after an end-run had been spilled for a two-yard gain Whittier booted the ball. A fumble by the Mount Millard quarter was recovered for a ten-yard loss and the enemy put the ball in play on her thirty. She made it first down on her forty-three and crossed the middle of the field in two plays by her full-back. Her next attempt was stopped, however, and, with one to go, she tried a long forward-pass that was intercepted by Tennyson. The Alton full-back fought his way for eight yards before he was thrown. A moment later it was Tennyson who found a hole to his liking on the left of the Mount Millard line and plunged through for seven yards more. A second attempt by the same player failed to gain and it was Plant who made it first down. Two slams at the line netted but three yards and Whittier tossed across the right of the line to Levering who, although pulled to earth promptly, secured all but a few feet of the needed distance. Tennyson piled over the center for the rest. But what looked like an Alton invasion stopped on the enemys thirty-seven and Whittier punted. Those kicks from close behind the line found Mount Millard unprepared for a while, and on this occasion the quarter again fumbled. A team-mate saved the day, though, and reeled off twelve yards through a crowded field before he was finally run out. After that the play hovered about the middle of the field until, just before the end of the half, the Mount Millard left half got away inside Sawyer, at right tackle, and zigzagged toward the Alton goal in a breath-taking fashion for some thirty yards. It was Whittier who finally pulled him down near the twenty.

This was Mount Millards second chance to score, and now she had no intention of being denied. Really exceptional football was played by the visitors then, and the Alton line broke time and again before desperate attacks. The Mount Millard full-back was the star of that skirmish, making gains of four and five and six yards at a time. The right of the Alton line was weakened by the absence of Captain Fingal, just as Mount Millard had probably surmised it would be, and it was at the right that most of the gains were made. Alton stiffened on her four yards and gave grudgingly, but the enemy finally piled across, beating the whistle by a matter of seconds only. An easy goal followed, and Alton retired from the field with seven points scored against her.

Jim had his chance when the third quarter started, and, while he played a steadier game than had Sawyer, Mount Millard still found the Alton right side vulnerable when a short gain was needed. Cooper, playing in Captain Guss position, proved no better than Smith, and when, toward the close of the period, he began to show the effects of the attention given him by the enemy backs he was taken out and Smith was reinstated. The Alton rooters expected that their team would show some of the new plays that had been drilled into it during the past fortnight and momentarily looked for Whittier or Plant to get clear and put the game on an even basis. But the few plays didnt materialize. Save for the new formation, which had its defamers on the Alton stand, the Gray-and-Gold showed nothing it had not shown before during the season. Even the nine forward-passes attempted in the course of the contest lacked novelty, and the running plays which Alton was supposed to have been perfecting were not exhibited. Alton was handicapped by the lack of a really first-class quarter, for Barnhart, while a hard-working, snappy youth, lacked experience sadly. His choice of plays were frequently more than questionable and he seemed unable to inspire his team. Yet in the final period he came near to atoning for all shortcomings when he shot out of what seemed an inextricable tangle of Alton backs and ends and skirted the enemys wing for sixty-two yards. It was the Mount Millard quarter who brought him down on the seventeen yards just when the shouting Alton rooters were visioning a touchdown. One unlucky stumble spelled Barnharts doom and Altons defeat. Had he not stumbled and momentarily lost his stride just before the enemy quarter sprang for him he would undoubtedly have gone on over the line, for Whittier was protecting him in the rear from the foremost of the Mount Millard pursuers. On such small things may Victory hinge!

Barnhart called for a smash at the left that sent Tennyson over the side-line and when the ball had been walked in he sent Whittier sliding off tackle at the right for six yards, and the Alton stand whooped it up deliriously. But when Steve went back to kicking position as the ball was snapped the enemy was not fooled and Tennysons dash around the right was nipped for a two-yard loss. Barnhart and Whittier, the latter captain pro tem, held a consultation then. The fourth period was young and there was still time to score again if the present venture failed. Barnhart wanted the three points a field-goal would bring, but Steve was firm for everything or nothing and Steves word carried. So Steve went back to drop-kicking position, and Cheswick passed the ball to him. It looked as though Jake Borden, well over to the left and sidling across the goal-line, was well uncovered, yet between the time that Steve shot the ball away to him and the instant it arrived a Mount Millard man dropped from the sky, or so it seemed, and smote the pigskin fairly out of Bordens hands.

That ended Altons threat. For the rest of the game the enemy played it safe, punting and punting again while the Gray-and-Gold sought desperately to again reach scoring distance. Toward the end play slowed up sadly for Alton, Barnhart seemingly at a loss and confusing his signals more than once. Cheswick gave way to Tip Benning and Levering to Tate in the line. Fillmore took Tennysons place and Adams and Ness became the halfs. But even fresh men couldnt stave off defeat, and finally the game came to an end with the home team fairly at a stand-still on her forty-five.

That evening Alton, saddened by the defeat, took second thought. Reference to Mount Millards record for the season somewhat eased the pain, for the big team had six victories to its credit, four of them against most worthy adversaries. Consequently, it was fair to assume that Alton, deprived as she had been of her captain and best quarter-backs, to say nothing of the other absentees, had done not so badly after all. Of course a defeat was a defeat, but it need not necessarily be a disgrace, and by Sunday Alton as a whole had reached the cheering decision that her team had performed very creditably. In support of this contention it was rumored that Johnny Cade had shown signs of satisfaction both during and subsequent to the battle. This, however, was only hearsay. In any event, Alton was, it was universally acknowledged, to be congratulated on one thing. She had gone through the Mount Millard game without once showing the hand she was holding for Kenly. Not a single new play had been used. Even the line shifts had been no different. To be sure, Coach Cade had shown the half-dozen Kenly scouts who had openly invaded the Mount Millard stands his new backfield formation, but since he had used it as the basis for only the most ordinary, time-honored plays it was held to be doubtful that the enemy observers would derive much profit from seeing it. Rather oddly not so oddly, either, if you know human nature those who now expressed the most pleasure over the withholding of new plays were those who had during the game most vigorously denounced Coach Cade for not using them.

Jim derived little satisfaction from his playing in the Mount Millard contest. He could, he decided, boast of a cut cheek and two fingers of his left hand bandaged together, but of little else. In retrospect it seemed to Jim that he had played like a loon. He had missed interference more often than he cared to think of, he had twice allowed the big Mount Millard guard, who faced him on offense, to get under him and spill him on his face and he had several times failed to open the hole he was expected to. Jim felt extremely depressed whenever he reviewed his activities of that afternoon, failing to take into account, unlike one or two of his team-mates, the fact that Mount Millard had presented a far better opposition than Alton had hitherto experienced.

It rained on Sunday; one of those desultory, half-hearted rains that seem always on the point of letting up, and dont; and Jims spirits became as gloomy as the view from the windows of Number 15. He told himself that it would have been a lot better if he had stuck to the decision he had made last fall and kept firmly away from football. The first rift in the clouds didnt appear until Monday morning. Then the glint of sunshine that peered through wasnt very bright. When Jim looked in the letter-box on his way to breakfast he found a letter postmarked at Norwalk. It was a brief and frequently misspelled missive from Webb Todd from which fell a soiled and flabby two-dollar bill. Webb reported that he was working, though the wages werent much Jim thought four dollars and a half a day quite fabulous! and that he was well and hoped this would find Jimmy the same, and he was sending two dollars. There was more, but this was the gist of it. It was enough to cheer Jim up a little, for he had a genuine affection for Webb, and life didnt look quite so dark afterwards.

Practice was light that Monday afternoon and there was no visit from the second. The only hostilities that developed were between the first team and the substitutes, and they lasted only ten minutes and were used by the coaches to illustrate the mistakes made on Saturday. On the bench it was confidentially noised that Gus and the others who had gone over to Lakeville Saturday had returned primed with all sorts of invaluable information, and strong in the belief that Kenly had something big up her sleeve that wouldnt slip into sight before the big game. Kenly, it seemed, had toyed with her opponent, using two full teams in the process of running up a 41 to 0 score, and had showed nothing she didnt want to. What information the Alton scouts had brought back was mainly concerned with the individual performances of the Kenly players, although certain other features had not escaped their eyes. The general verdict to-day was to the effect that Kenly has a strong team, all right, but we can lick em!

The usual evening session in the gymnasium came off as usual at seven-thirty, and Coach Cade, chalk in hand, drew diagrams on the blackboard and explained them, after which the plays were walked off. Some of the plays were fairly complicated, and to-night the class seemed duller than usual. Perhaps for that reason Mr. Cade shortened the session. Having, however, released them, he called them back in the next breath.

Just a minute, fellows!

The exodus halted short of the doors. Mr. Cade was holding a sheet of paper up.

Does this belong to any one here? he asked.

Some of the nearer fellows retraced their steps for a closer view, while a voice from further away asked: What is it, Mr. Cade?

Well, its a sheet of paper, was the answer. It was found somewhere, in one of the dormitories, I think, and handed to me. It has a football play on one side, done in pencil, and

Laughter met that announcement. Mr. Cade smiled, too, but he went on to add: I understand your amusement, but it happens that this play strikes me as rather ingenious and novel. Certainly, I dont remember ever having seen it in use. Thats why I want to find the fellow who drew it. Id like to ask him where he found it.

By this time most of the squad had clustered around, but no one laid claim to the paper. There was a good deal of laughter and speculation, but in the end the coach refolded the sheet and placed it back in his pocket and the fellows crowded out, bandying joking explanations, such as that the thing had been planted by the enemy. Mr. Cade left the floor some moments after the players, accompanied by Lowell Woodruff. They walked together as far as the corner of Borden Hall, and there Lowell turned off along the walk and the coach started across the campus on a bee-line for the main gate. Footfalls made scarcely any sound on the turf and consequently the coach gave a start of surprise when a voice called to him from hardly more than a yard behind. He wheeled quickly and found a tall figure at his elbow.

Mr. Cade, that piece of paper was mine. I lost it somewhere two or three days ago.

Oh, its Todd! Yours, you say? Well, why didnt you claim it, Todd?

Jim hesitated an instant. Well, sir, you see I thought those fellows would rag me if they knew.

Mr. Cade laughed. I see, he said. Well, where did you get hold of this idea, Todd?

I dont know, sir.

Dont know? What do you mean by that? You got it somewhere, of course. Did you find it in a book or in a paper? Ever seen it used?

No, sir, what I mean is well, I just thought of it.

Made it up yourself, you mean? Are you sure of that?

Yes, sir. Ive never seen any of those plays in books, Mr. Cade, and I havent seen many games, either. Maybe it aint new, of course. I I was just sort of amusing myself.

No, the chances are that it isnt new. Mighty few plays are. But its new to me, Todd, and it might be new to He broke off. Then: Are you going to be busy this evening? he asked.

Not all evening, answered Jim. Ive got about an hours studying to do, but after that

Its a little after eight. Can you drop over and see me about nine or a few minutes later? You know where I live?

Yes, sir, I know. Ill come.

Good enough. Id like to talk to you about this. And, if you dont mind, Ill keep it until I see you.

Yes, sir.

Jim watched the dark form of the coach vanish into the gloom of the trees and then turned and made his way back to Haylow. He felt rather excited, rather elated. Suppose No, he wouldnt suppose anything yet! Probably it was all just nothing at all. Maybe Mr. Cade hadnt really looked at the diagram yet. Maybe

That and a few more maybes brought Jim to Number 15 and the sight of Clem studying at the table. He wished he could tell Clem about the momentous happening. But he couldnt. And he mustnt think about it any more now. There was Latin to be dug into. Very determinedly he seated himself opposite the absorbed Clem and drew his books toward him.

CHAPTER XVIII
THE REVERSE PASS

Mr. Cade answered Jims ring and led the way into the big, comfortable sitting-room, where, observing no appropriate accommodation for caps, Jim disposed of his own by putting it in his pocket. Then he took a chair close to the big round table that held a huge lamp, magazines and books and ash-trays and battered pipes and a strange but interesting litter of other things, and Mr. Cade dropped back into his leather arm-chair, took up the diagram and studied it for a moment in silence. During the moment Jim looked around him, felt the somewhat out-at-elbows hominess of the room and relaxed against the frayed cushions behind him.

As I make out this reverse pass, Todd, said the coach, its a good scoring play under certain conditions if it proves practical. Its weakness lies in the fact that three passes are involved. Every pass depends primarily for its success on two players, the man who throws and the man who receives. If either one fails the pass fails. This play consequently offers a bigger chance for failure than the play calling for two passes. On the other hand its principal feature, which is that of deception, seems to me to justify the added risk. Now, suppose you explain it to me, Todd.

Explain it? faltered Jim.

Yes, Id like to get your version of it. Its your idea, and I want to learn just what that idea is. What I make of this sketch may not be what you had in mind.

Well, began Jim, leaning forward to refresh his memory from the diagram in the others hand, it uses the regular back-field formation.

Yes, so I see, but what about the line? You cant see this from there, can you? Suppose you bring your chair nearer.

Ill just sort of draw it over, said Jim. He looked about for paper and, seeing none, thrust a hand into the inner pocket of his jacket.





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