Ralph Barbour.

Right Tackle Todd





White mittens? chuckled Clem. Well, you did have the Willies for fair! Calm yourself, old son, and nuzzle down again. It must be mighty close to daylight.

CHAPTER XXI
ALTON VS. KENLY HALL

The players trundled away from school that Saturday morning at ten oclock, cheered to the echo by some three hundred and fifty football-mad adherents. The rest of the student body left on the twelve-eight train, to which an extra day-coach had been added. Clem, sharing a seat with Landorf and Imbrie Imbrie sat on the arm beguiled the first part of the journey with the morning papers. Both the Alton paper and that published in the near-by city gave a flattering amount of space to the Alton-Kenly Hall game. Not unnaturally, the home journal predicted a victory for the Gray-and-Gold. The other favored Kenly. Some writer signing himself Sporticus told his city readers that he had seen both Alton and Kenly Hall in action and that it would take a much better prophet than he pretended to be to pick certainly the winner of to-days contest.

Alton, he continued, has a fine-looking team that is well grounded in the rudiments, plays with unusual speed and has been developed steadily since the first of the season with the single purpose of reaching the apex of its power at two oclock this afternoon. Starting with a practically green team, Coach Johnny Cade has built around a nucleus of four veterans an aggregation that has shown a lot of football gumption and a good deal of strength during the last three games. The Gray-and-Gold looks to be better on attack than on defense, but the last week may have brought about an improvement in the latter department, and her line may prove strong enough to stop the efforts of the Kenly backs. If it can Alton will stand a good chance to cop the contest, for I like her attack. Rumor credits her with having developed a nice bunch of running and passing plays that have not, so far, been shown. Whether she has anything that will prevail against a defense as experienced and steady as Kenlys, only developments can prove. Altons center-trio is quite as good as Kenlys. Cheswick, at center, combines weight with speed and has shown himself a master at diagnosing the opponents plays. Captain Gus Fingal, right guard, is playing an even better game than last season when he was a large, sharp thorn in the side of the enemy. Powers, the other guard, lacks Fingals weight but is remarkably steady. He also has speed. Speed, in fact, is the outstanding feature of the Gray-and-Gold line from end to end. At tackles Alton will play Roice and either Sawyer or Todd. Sawyer has seen more service, but Todd has been coming fast for the last fortnight and, in spite of lack of weight, looks to have the call for the right side position. Levering and Borden, ends, have not shown anything spectacular so far except an ability to move fast, and they sure do that. In the backfield Alton will start Pep Kinsey at quarter.

Kinsey doesnt look like a quarter-back, but he has held down the job satisfactorily most of the season and seems to get more out of his team than his alternate, Latham. Whittier and Frost are two good half-backs who will have quite a lot to say for themselves. Whittier is rather more of the defensive back than Billy Frost, but he, too, is capable of gaining if given the ball. Frost is the lad for Kenly to keep an eye on, for he can hit the line like a five-ton truck and is a wonder at running. He will also be on the receiving end of some of the forward heaves that Alton is expected to pull off. The remaining back, Tennyson, is something of an unknown quantity, since he took the place of Crumb late in the season when the latter was injured.

Sporticus gave an equal amount of space in his column to an appraisal of the individual members of the Kenly team and then summed up as follows: On seasons performance, then, Kenly ought to win to-days fracas by two scores, but no football solon pins his faith utterly on performance. So when I predict a verdict for the Cherry-and-Black I have in mind one important fact that has been fully established, which is: The team with the power wins. Kenly has the power. She lacks the speed of her opponent and uses fewer plays. But she has a line that has proved practically shot-proof, and her attack, while not varied, has a relentless quality that makes it a ground-gainer. Of course, surprises may happen and upset the dope. Some of those trick plays that Alton is believed to have in her duffle-bag may catch Kenly napping. A forward-pass thrown at the right moment may land over the goal-line. But every student of the gentle Art of Football knows that where one game is won by forward-passes or trick runs nine are won by the plain, old-fashioned, garden-variety of football. Thats why I select Kenly; reserving an alibi, though, as set forth above.

Humph, said Clem, when he had finished the article, these newspaper sport writers are great guys to play it safe. This fellow just knows that Kenly is going to win if! Youd think from the way he goes on that Kenlys line hadnt been shot more than once already. Invulnerable he calls it. What about Lorimer? I suppose she didnt get a touchdown against Kenly! And look at last Saturdays game. Emmons scored twice, once by a pass from the ten-yard line and once from the field. If she found Kenlys line invulnerable how the heck did she get within scoring distance? Sporticus has his signals crossed!

Dont be hard on the poor chaps, said Imbrie. They have to fill their columns somehow, old dear.

Somehow is right, grumbled Clem.

At two oclock, when Alton kicked off to Kenly, the sun was shining brightly and a slight breeze was quartering the field, lending some advantage to the visiting team. The air held quite a nip, and coat collars were generally worn turned up. From the players standpoint it was ideal weather, from the spectators it was a bit unpleasant on hands and feet. The cheering, which had been fairly incessant for the past ten minutes, ceased as Captain Gus stepped forward and booted the new brown oval high and far.

The Kenly quarter fumbled, but a half-back rescued the ball on his seventeen yards and ran it back to the twenty. Kenly tested Cheswick and got one yard. Then she punted to Altons thirty-three, the ball going outside. Frost got two through the center and Tennyson slid off right tackle for three more. Whittier punted to the opponents twenty-seven and Levering missed a tackle, the catcher advancing seven yards before he was spilled by Powers. Two tries at the Alton line netted but five yards and a short pass over the center grounded. Kenly kicked beautifully against the breeze, the ball falling on Altons seventeen, where Kinsey was thrown hard. Time was called for Alton. Frost got two through the right of the enemys line when play was resumed and followed it with six more on an off-tackle run. Whittier tried a run around the left and was stopped for a loss of a yard. Whittier punted, but Kenly was off-side and it was Altons ball on her twenty-nine. Whittier circled left end on first down and gained two yards and Tennyson gathered in one more by a plunge at center. Whittier punted to Kenlys twenty-six and the Cherry-and-Black quarter ran the ball back to the forty before he was stopped by Levering.

Kenly got started then and punched the enemy line for short gains, making it first down on Altons forty-eight. Then the Kenly full-back managed to get free on a wide run and landed the pigskin on the visitors thirty-six, following this with a fierce plunge at Powers that gave him three more. On the next play Roice was off-side and Kenly advanced to Altons twenty-eight. She made it first down on Altons twenty-five-yard line. A plunge at the left of the visitors line was stopped and a short pass grounded. On a fake-kick play Kenlys big full-back gained three off Todd, at right tackle. Kenlys drop-kicker retired to the thirty-yard line and, since the ball was directly in front of goal, a score seemed imminent. But the pass from center was short and before the kicker could get the ball away the Alton forwards were through on top of him and the kick was blocked.

Kenlys left tackle recovered the rolling ball on his thirty-eight, beating Whittier to it by inches only, and, after she had failed to gain through Powers, Kenly grounded a pass. A second pass was intercepted by Frost.

Alton tried to knife Kinsey through but lost a yard, and Tennysons slide off tackle regained the loss and no more. Then Frost slipped off right tackle for a run of seventeen yards, being finally forced out on his forty-four. A cross-buck, with Borden carrying, gained four, Tennyson got two through right guard and Whittier skirted the left end for six more, making it first down on the enemys forty-four. After three wasted efforts, Whittier punted over Kenlys goal-line, and the ball came back to the twenty. Two attempts at the line failed and Kenly punted on third down to mid-field. An off-side play gave Alton five yards and in two downs she added four more. Whittier punted to Kenlys eleven and the Cherry-and-Black left half was downed in his tracks by Todd. Kenly lost four yards on an end run, made two off left tackle and two more through center and then punted to her own forty-one. Frost was thrown for a loss on an end run and the quarter ended with the ball in Altons possession on the enemys forty-three yards.

So far it was still anybodys game and even the clever Sporticus, whose narrative of the first period I have quoted almost verbatim, after seeing Kenlys line pierced more than once, would have hesitated about making another prediction. Neither team had shown the ability to gain through the others line consistently. Although outweighted, the Alton forwards had held their own very well against the enemy, usually getting the jump on their slower opponents with good effect. The hard-hitting Kenly backs had found the going more difficult than had been prophesied, while the Alton backs, starting quickly from their positions well behind their line, had already proved the value of the new formation. Whittiers punts from close behind center had not surprised Kenly greatly, since her scouts had prepared her for them, but the fact that she was always more or less uncertain when they were coming did worry her far more than appeared.

The second period started without changes in either line-up: for Alton it was still Levering, Roice, Powers, Cheswick, Fingal, Todd, Borden, Kinsey, Whittier, Frost and Tennyson. Coach Cade had put his best foot forward and meant to keep it there as long as he could. With the wind slightly in her favor, Kenly punted frequently in the second quarter, trusting to get a break that would put her within scoring distance. Alton kicked only when all other means had failed. She managed to keep her territory fairly free of the enemy through most of the period, but in the final five minutes Kenly worked an invasion. Punting from her thirty-two yards, the Cherry-and-Black landed the pigskin in Pep Kinseys arms near his twenty-yard line. The kick was long and fairly high, the wind floating the ball along for an added ten yards, and Pep misjudged and at the last moment had to run back. Frost, playing back with him, saw the ball in jeopardy and raced across for it with the result that the pigskin was almost lost to both of them. Pep managed to hold it after a moments juggling, however, but by that time a frantic Kenly end was on him and he was tackled fiercely, Frost being out of position to offer protection. Pep stayed flat and time was called. After working over the Alton quarter for a while, Jake signaled and Horace Latham, already warming up before the bench, ran on. Pep was led off looking pretty groggy.

Two attacks on tackles failed to get the ball much farther out of the dangerous neighborhood and Latham punted. The kick was poor and the ball went out at Altons forty-yard line. Then it was that Kenly showed her power, for she marched back to the eighteen yards without a pause, making her distance the first time by two inches and gaining her final stand by a short toss across the Alton left wing that gave her a needed four yards. Then, however, Alton stood firm. Walzer had been sent in for Hick Powers, who had been pretty roughly used, and Kenlys two attempts on the left of the enemys center were piled up for no gain. Another of the Kenly short passes grounded and once more her drop-kicker stepped into the limelight. This time the Cherry-and-Black line was a stone wall, the ball was passed neatly and the kicker had plenty of leisure to perform his trick. The ball thudded away from his foot and climbed into the air, far beyond the upraised tips of eager fingers, passing squarely between the uprights and high over the cross-bar. Kenly had drawn first blood and the vacant space beside her name on the scoreboard suddenly held a large white 3!

That was just about all there was to that second quarter. Jim was taken out in favor of Sawyer just before the end of it. Alton fought into the enemys territory in the last minute of play only to yield the pigskin on a punt, and before the teams could line up again the whistle blew.

CHAPTER XXII
THE BANDAGED HAND

Back in the gymnasium, in a small room provided for its use, the Alton team spent eleven tense minutes. Coaches, trainer and rubbers toiled without let-up. Faults were pointed out by stern-faced assistants and offenders were taken severely to task. Johnny Cade, one forefinger tapping Lathams chest, spoke quietly but earnestly. The pungent odor of rubbing liniment filled the air. Jake moved briskly and cheerfully about, unwinding bandage and tape and clipping with his little blunt-nosed scissors. And finally Manager Woodruff took his eyes from the dial of his watch and called: Four minutes!

On the field Kenly sang and cheered, and Alton, although outnumbered, was scarcely less vociferous. The big cherry-red flag stood out above the home stand, snapping briskly in the increasing wind. Chilled feet were coaxed back to warmth and coats more closely buttoned. The sunlight had lost its heat now and the breeze was taking on an icier tang. The minutes passed slowly, but at last the Kenly stand sprang to its feet with an Aye-e-e! as the red-stockinged warriors came into view again. Then the cheer leaders waved and the long Kenly cheer swept across the field. Ere it had ended the Alton side was vocal, too, for a tall, light-haired youth, gray-armed and gray-legged, trotted into sight. Behind him trailed twenty-nine others of his kind, and then a little squad of non-combatants. A white-sweatered man moved into the field, a gray-sweatered man joined him. The cheers continued deafeningly. Linesmen, blowing on chilled hands, dragged their long rods down near the thirty-yard line. Alton had to yield the advantage of the wind this time, but had elected to receive the kick-off.

Three changes in the Kenly team were seen, two in the line and one in the backfield. For Alton, Latham remained at quarter, Sawyer at right tackle and Walzer at left guard. With the wind behind it, the ball sailed almost to the five-yard line before it dropped, and Alton let it go over. Back on her twenty, the Gray-and-Gold flashed into life. It seemed that she was showing her true strength for the first time. Straight down the field she marched, overwhelming Kenly with the speed of her attack, mingling straight line-jabs, swift dashes around the tackles and short side passes that led to wide runs. Every shot found its mark and not once was Alton halted until, almost on Kenlys thirty, a wide run went agley and Billy Frost was thrown behind his line for a five-yard loss.

A short pass across the left of the line was caught by Latham, but the gain was less than the previous loss. Once more, Tennyson heaved the ball, this time far toward the side-line, but it was knocked down. Kenlys hoarse reiterated appeal of Hold em, Kenly! Hold em, Kenly! was being answered. It was fourth down now and there was still five yards to gain, with the ball on Kenlys thirty-one yards. A goal from the field seemed a hopeless thought, yet that is what Latham called for. Captain Gus was summoned back and Latham dropped to a knee in front of him close to the forty-yard line. Shouts of Block it! Block it! swept across from the home stand. Cheswick sped the ball back, Latham caught it and placed it and Gus stepped forward. The lines heaved and bent. But foot met ball and the pigskin shot forward. Latham had canted it, as he hoped, so that it would fly low, but after it had cleared the frantic arms of the oncoming enemy it was caught by a sudden gust and changed its flight. For an instant it seemed to pause. Then it went up and up, hung for a breathless moment high in air and began its descent. Already Kenly was howling its relief, for the ball was coming down well short of the bar.

It descended close to the five-yard line and it was a red-legged tackle who caught it to him and sprang forward. But Sam Tennyson wrapped his long arms about his neck and pulled him back and down. It was Kenlys ball on her three yards.

The Kenly kicker stepped back well behind his goal-line and a little to the left of center, mindful of the nearer post looming dangerously close, and the silence of suspense fell. Altons Block that kick! Block that kick! dwindled to a faint, hoarse mutter. Back went the ball, but low, and the kicker had to step forward to get it. Recovering, he saw the left of his line torn apart as Alton burst through. There was no time now for a punt. Tucking the ball under his arm, he started away to the right, seeking to pass behind the goal and find a safe path out of his dilemma. And for a second success seemed to await him. But just as he swung back toward the field, Jake Borden swept down on him. Jake missed his tackle, but he stopped the runner long enough for Roice to reach him and the two went down together a yard behind the goal-line.

Alton roared in triumph and a figure 2 went up for the visitors. It was not much of a score, but it was something, and the faint-hearted among the Alton adherents were jubilant. At least, the Gray-and-Gold had not been shut-out! The ball went out to the thirty yards and play began once more. Kenly twice failed to advance a runner and then kicked. Latham caught and was downed instantly. Alton began another march, but it ended at her own forty-yard line and there Latham punted short to the enemys thirty-eight. Kenly sprang a long forward-pass that almost but not quite succeeded. A shorter attempt went for six yards and two slams at the line gave her first down on the fifty-yard line. Then followed Kenlys moment of power, for she plunged and battered her way forward for two first downs and placed the ball on Altons twenty-eight. Walzer was hurt and Hick Powers went back to left guard position. Kenly tried a full-back run that would have netted her twelve yards had not an end been off-side. As it was, she was set back to the thirty-three, and two plunges were stopped and a third down gained but three yards off left tackle. Kenly set herself as for a try at a field goal but, instead, hurled a long pass diagonally toward the right corner of the field. The wind both aided and hindered that throw. It added distance but it also swept the ball away from the waiting end and into the outstretched hands of Sam Tennyson. Sam dodged and wriggled and fought back to the seventeen before force of numbers laid him low.

Presently Latham again punted and, although the kick failed of distance, the Kenly back who caught was dropped the instant the pigskin was in his hands. From Altons forty-six yards, Kenly began another advance. This time she reached only the thirty-two yards, where, with three downs gone, she decided to take what was offered her. Her kicker was squarely on the forty-yard line when he booted, and this time the Kenly line held fast. But the ball, while it had both height and distance, passed outside the left-hand upright; although it was not until a moment had passed and the figure 3 on the scoreboard was not changed that the spectators knew whether or not the goal had been kicked. Then Alton voiced her relief in hearty fashion. Two more plays laid the pigskin on Altons twenty-four yards and the whistle blew for the last intermission.

Three to two and still anybodys game!

That either team would be able to put over a touchdown looked improbable. One or the other might win in the last quarter by a field-goal, but it seemed a safe wager that neither Gray-and-Gold nor Cherry-and-Black had enough strength to cross her opponents goal-line. Both in attack and defense the rivals had shown themselves well matched. What Kenly possessed of superiority in weight was offset by Altons speed, while Altons speed was not a sufficient asset to win her passage over the last five lines. But with the favoring wind behind her now Alton might, thought the more hopeful of the visitors, bring some trick into play that would decide the contest in her favor. Among the hopeful was Clem, shivering between Imbrie and Landorf, high on the Alton stand. Clems shivers were due more to excitement than cold, however, and that excitement was heightened when, as the teams gathered again, two forms ran on from the visitors side-line. One was Pep Kinsey. The other was Jim Todd. Clem arose to his feet and shouted madly.





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