Right Tackle Todd
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“Atta boy, Jim! Atta boy! Atta boy! Atta —”
Landorf pulled him down to his seat. Those around laughed and cheered him. Then the leaders called for short cheers for Latham and Sawyer, and then for Kinsey and Todd. Clem was babbling incoherently and not until the cheers were over did Landorf sense what he was saying.
“That’s why Johnny took him out in the third,” Clem was exclaiming. “Must have hurt his hand pretty badly.”
“Who hurt his hand?” asked Art.
“Jim. Look at it. Wait till he turns – there! His left hand is all bandaged up!”
It certainly was. Against the soiled khaki of his pants his left hand shone like an Easter lily against dark foliage. The four fingers were bound separately with clean white gauze and looked oddly conspicuous, Landorf thought. “Funny he managed to get ’em all hurt,” he said. “That’s what I call hogging it!”
A whistle blew and Pep Kinsey’s voice piped out sharply. Whittier took the ball as it sped back from center and dashed toward the left. Kinsey caught it at a short pass and sped along the line to the right. Jim had a hole there. Tennyson went through, clearing it out and crashing against a Kenly back, and Pep followed. Three yards gain. Fourth down and three to go. Again the ball went to Whittier and with two short strides toward his line he punted high. Down went the ends and down went Jim, racing them to the enemy’s eighteen. Above them sailed the ball, turning lazily over and over. A Kenly back edged forward, paused, turned and raced backward. He caught on his eighteen yards and it was Jim who closed his arms about his thighs, lifted him back and deposited him on his sixteen. A hard-hearted referee put the ball on the eighteen, waved a hand and slipped out of the way. Kenly started toward the Alton goal once more.
Failing, at last, near mid-field to gain at the line, she passed across the center and made eight. But a moment later she was again forced to kick. Frost pulled the ball down on his twenty-two, side-stepped a Kenly end, whirled from the grasp of a Kenly tackle and went plunging in and out until the enemy closed in about him on the thirty-six. An off-side penalty put Alton back to the thirty-one, and two plays later Whittier again punted, from his thirty-five. Once more the Kenly back was thrown in his tracks and once more Kenly set her face toward the distant goal. Then came a punt from her thirty-nine that went almost straight in air and dropped out-of-bounds at Alton’s forty-three.
Ever since the beginning of the quarter Jim had been listening for a certain signal and now it came. “Formation L!” called the quarter. Jake Borden swung out and trotted to the left of the line, taking position between Roice and Levering. “Signals! Fifteen, thirty-seven, twelve! Fifteen, thirty-seven – ”
The ball went back and Alton flew into action. It was the signal Jim had been awaiting, yet it was not the play, for although Sam had started before the ball and raced off and backward to the left, and although Whittier, with ball poised high, was following him slowly, stepping back warily and apparently searching for an uncovered receiver, Jim knew that Play 37 was to go for a run the first time it was called.So, instead of wandering away to the right and trying to look as if he was searching for four-leaf clovers or had lost his pocket-knife and was trying to find it, Jim threw himself into the opposing tackle, twisted past and slammed around behind the opposing line. Whittier turned and tossed to Tennyson and Sam sprang forward. Kinsey laid low the Kenly right half and Sam was going hard when he gained the line, well outside, but the entire Kenly backfield had been drawn to its right, and so had every other member of the team, and the best Tennyson could do was fight his way to the forty-seven for a four-yard gain. But the play had proved itself. Kenly had first suspected a forward-pass and guarded against it, her backs spreading and waiting. Then, when Whittier had made the on-side toss to Tennyson, she had concluded that it meant a run and had moved, almost as one man, across to meet it. And now Jim waited eagerly to hear the “37” again.
But it didn’t come. Alton made her way to the enemy’s thirty-seven only to lose the ball when Frost fumbled when tackled. A few minutes later she was back on her own thirty-five, the ball in her possession after a Kenly punt. Kenly was now satisfied, it seemed, to play for time and trust to fortune to bring her another scoring opportunity. If that failed her, she was still certain of victory if she could keep Alton from adding to that insufficient 2. Twice she punted out of danger and back into Alton territory. Alton was using every play she knew now, but Kenly was resisting desperately. New men were running on for her and old and wearied ones were stumbling off. Alton, too, made changes, though fewer. Tate and Kruger went in at the ends of the line and Cheswick, thoroughly played out, gave place to Benning. The end was drawing nigh. Seven minutes became six and six minutes dwindled to five.
It was Alton’s ball again, following a punt, on her thirty-four. Tennyson made four outside tackles on a delayed buck, Whittier gained three straight ahead between center and right guard and Frost made it first down on a slide off left tackle. Tennyson passed to Whittier and the latter scampered around the short end for seven more and put the ball over the center line. Frost lost two, got three and made it first down again. So it went, Kenly fighting but yielding. On the enemy’s thirty-eight, on fourth down, Whittier faked a kick and tossed to Frost and Frost ran to the left and got his distance on a wide run behind fine interference. The ball was close to the left side-line now and on the next play Whittier shot off to the right on a wide sweep that gained only a yard. And then Jim, achingly impatient, heard what he had been longing to hear once more.
“Seventeen, thirty-seven, eleven! Seventeen – ”
Tennyson was off, running hard, to the left.
“ – Thirty-seven!”
Jim engaged the opposing end, blocked him for an instant and then let him through inside. Kenly was crying “Watch a pass!” and “Fake!” and “End run on right!” Jim ambled around his end, the enemy moving before him. The Kenly defensive back was edging to his right, well down the field. Jim swung aside and sped toward the side of the field. Then, turning, he faced the confusion he had left behind. He was alone and unnoted as yet. Up went his long left arm and the four white-bandaged fingers made a startling beacon against the dark hues of the stand behind him. Whittier had tossed to Sam and Sam was peering across the confusion of leaping, struggling forms. They were closing in on him fast. A Kenly lineman had trickled through and Whittier met him square and sent him reeling aside. But the whole Cherry-and-Black team was bearing down now and Sam, scorning further subterfuge, raised the ball in his right hand, faced the distant white signal, drew his arm back and threw!
Then he was out of sight behind leaping figures, and Jim, his gaze on the speeding ball, knew that the tide had set back his way. Forms sensed rather than seen grew larger and larger as they raced toward him. Frantic cries of warning and shouts of alarm came to him. He had himself ready now, though, and the ball, sent low and hard and straight, was shooting at him, a brown missile that grew ever larger. Then he met it with his hands, gave one step to ease the catch, tucked the ball under his right hand and sped away.
He had been just over Kenly’s forty-yard line when he had caught, and some twelve yards from the side-line. When he had put one more white streak underfoot he turned to the left, the nearer upright of the goal his destination. But that course was not to be held long. Already a fleet-footed Kenly quarter-back was speeding to meet him, while steps pounded hard behind and to the right. Jim eased away toward the side-line and pushed the thirty-yard mark behind him. Then the quarter was on him, coming straight from the side. Jim thought quick, dug one heel and spun to the left. A hand slapped at his thigh and a red-clad arm swept upward, but the quarter fell past, clutching vainly, and Jim Todd went on, friend and foe racing and falling behind him, on past the twenty yards and the fifteen and to the ten. There the enemy made its last appeal to Fortune. A Kenly end hurled himself forward and his fingers seized about Jim’s left leg. Jim faltered, then went on a stride, dropped to a knee, struggled erect again and again advanced. A stride – another – Figures were all about him now and suddenly he could go no farther. He plunged forward, face-down, the ball, firmly grasped, held at arms’ length. A ton of weight fell on him.
Some one was tugging at the ball, but Jim held it in a death grip. A voice was calling: “Get up! Get up!” Then a white sweater sleeve came into his vision and his fingers released their hold. The weight was gone and arms were pulling him to his feet. He stood erect, breathless, anxious, and looked about. Gus Fingal was grinning as well as a cut and swollen lip would allow. So was Hick Powers. The rest of his team were gathering along the five-yard line and Kenly, suddenly strangely weary and discouraged-looking, was assembling between them and the goal. Then Jim understood. His own grin answered the others.
“Gee, I guess it was over, wasn’t it?” he panted.
“Two feet over,” said Captain Gus. “Come on and let’s finish it up, Slim. Only forty seconds more!”
Slim went back to his place, the lines heaved, a thud followed and again wild, triumphant cheers burst from the Alton stand. On the scoreboard an 8 was changed to a 9.
Half a minute later, having joined in a hoarse cheer for the defeated rival, Slim fought his way toward the bench. But there wasn’t much fight left now and he was soon captured. From the shoulders of two shouting, maniacal schoolmates he looked down over a sea of bobbing heads. He felt rather tired, very happy and – extremely foolish!
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