The Big Game – Part 3 of 3

“Hey Ref, what took so long to get the clock stopped?” Ian barked, raising his arms above his head. “You’re killin’ me! That play took 7 seconds?”

The referee stood motionless in the middle of the field, leaning upon his cane and staring blindly into the distance as if he had heard absolutely nothing.

“Geesh, we’ve got 9 seconds left,” started Ian, shaking his head, displeased. “Looks like they’re gonna double team Jack this time. Dak, you’ve got to pick up Tony. I’m gonna follow you right up the middle of the line and I need you to push him to the side. Dak, this play won’t work unless you open up the middle for me. I’m going to run the delayed draw right up the pipe!”

    The delayed draw meant Ian would drop back as if he were going to throw the ball, but as soon as he saw an opening he would sprint through the hole in the defensive line.

“Jack, meet me about 15 yards downfield,” said Ian, putting his hand on Jackson’s shoulder. “As soon as one of their guys catches me, I’m gonna pitch the ball to you.”

The two best friends looked into each other’s eyes. They knew what had to be done and this was their last chance to reach legendary status upon the elementary school football field.

“Oh, and one last thing,” said Ian, flashing a toothy smile. “You’d better score, big guy!”

“Don’t worry, Bloober. I got this,” grinned Jackson, nodding, determined.

The rest of the team quickly shook off the notion of guessing what a Bloober might be, then readied themselves mentally for the next play.

“Okay team,” said Ian. “This is for all the marbles. On one. On one. Ready.”

“BREAK!”

The team hurried to the line of scrimmage. The offensive linemen squatted, placing their hands upon their knees in normal pass blocking position. By now, dozens of children had gathered near the edge of the field to watch the closing moments of the game. Ian once again, studied the defense from left to right.

“Ready. Set. HUTT!” he barked.

The two opposing lines blasted into one another. Tremendous groans once again filled the air, as bodies collided with fierce athletic purpose. The players young faces glistened with blood and sweat, as they fought with all their might to gain the advantage. Ian took the ball and dropped back several steps, shuffling his feet as he watched the defense move. In seconds, an opening in the middle of the line appeared.

“Go, Dak!” Ian screamed, sprinting into position behind the big lineman.

Using every ounce of his remaining energy, Dak lumbered down the middle of the field directly at little Tony, who was much smaller in size and weight. Ian followed closely behind his big lineman, resting his hand upon the boy’s lower back as they advanced.

“Draw! It’s a Draw!” yelled Tony, suddenly wide eyed and desperate for help from his teammates.

Before the defense could react, Dak and Ian reached Tony. Dak lowered his shoulder and flung his entire massive body, catching Tony directly under the armpit and forcing him into the air, somersaulting backwards. After logging some impressive time in the air, Tony eventually landed with a sickening thud, sprawled out like a wilted flower upon the hard ground. Ian quickly cut left to dodge the pile of boys and jetted toward the goal as hard and fast as he could.

As expected, after covering about 15 yards, Ian caught a blur coming directly at him from the corner of his left eye. It was Robert, one of the biggest, fastest kids on the defense. All the kids and teachers alike knew Robert was not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it came to book smarts. But at this particular moment book smarts didn’t matter much, especially to Ian. In what seemed to be a nanosecond before being demolished by the attacking laser jet known as Robert, Ian gracefully tossed the ball, floating it in midair for Jackson.

 

The speedy Jackson Shepherd shot past the piled-up bodies of Ian and Robert, plucking the ball from the sky with skill. Jackson surveyed the field as he sprinted toward the remaining members of the defense. He faked left, then masterfully cut right, picking up yardage and leaving defenders falling to the ground in his wake. Jackson then hurdled one small boy, who was rolling toward him like a tiny steamroller, hoping to take Jackson out by the feet. Then came the epic, history making football move. Jackson Shepherd executed a beautiful spin move that the students and teachers of Pleasant Run Elementary School would be discussing for many years to come.

As Jackson sprinted toward the only remaining defensive player, he faked left then did a complete 360-degree spin move to the right, leaving the defeated defensive player astonished, falling to his backside, and wondering how he got faked out so badly that he lost his shoes in the process. Jackson then high stepped the remaining few yards into the end zone, holding the ball high above his head, dabbing one final time for good measure. It was a beautiful thing to see. If only Ian Thomas were conscious when it happened.

Lighting shot through Ian’s entire body, crushed by the vicious hit from Robert. Both Ian and Robert moaned loudly as they made violent contact, first with each other, and again as they fell to the ground. Ian had hit his face upon Robert’s arm and now had blood streaming from his nose and mouth. Ian pushed himself into a sitting position, then remained motionless for a few seconds. He pounded the side of his head a couple times, trying to gather his wits. He soon began to recognize the screams and cheers of his classmates, which helped him remember he was actually playing football and not really floating upon a rainbow-colored surfboard across the far reaches of outer space.

Ian grimaced as he looked toward the end zone, still shaking the cobwebs from his mind. Through the blurry haze he saw Jackson standing five yards across the goal, celebrating with the team. Ian wobbled to his feet and extended his hand.

“Holy cats, that was a heck of a stick, Robert,” Ian said, pulling the boy up off the ground by his shaking, rubbery arm.

Robert blinked a couple times and then nodded in appreciation. He stared blankly at Ian for a moment, then meandered toward the sidelines, still visibly shaken from the brutal collision.

Ian turned and managed a slow jog toward the end zone. He tried to rub the blood off his face with his forearm, but mostly just smeared it, making it worse. When Ian reached the team, he and Jackson immediately exchanged high fives, fist bumps, hugs, back slaps and anything else they could think of. The boys were the champions of the school!