The day soon came when the lineup for the first game was announced. Roy was chosen to play first team offensive guard. His mother rued the day when she had agreed to let him play. She believed he would probably quit before the first game. His dad on the other hand was quite proud. Central Jr. High was the largest in the division and they had won every game they played in the last several years. They were Golfview’s first opponent. During the week before the game the coach passed out the new purple game shirts with the gold numbers. Roy wore number 69. The Golfview Gators were ready to play.
The game was played under the lights at the high school stadium. Most of the Gator squad had never been there before, and most had never played under the lights. Their practice field didn’t have any markings on it. The referees had to line them up before the first kick-off. The Central squad looked huge. They won the toss and chose to receive. Coach Mays gathered the Golfview players in a big huddle and gave them a pep talk.
“Men, their return man is named DeAngelo and he is wearing number 32. All of you look for number 32. He is very fast. Hit him low, and hit him hard.”
Coach called Roy’s name for the kick-off squad. All of the team joined in a cheer that started low and got louder as they broke the huddle. “Gator bait, gator bait, gator bait….”
Roy ran onto the field. He looked at the other team and found number 32 near the goal line. He saw himself shedding blockers and plowing DeAngelo into the turf in front of the cheering masses. The referees whistle blew and Golfview’s kicker hit the football. It sailed toward number 32. DeAngelo got the football and started up field. Roy could see nothing but number 32. He was going to hit him untouched. Just as he took his angle, Roy was hit by a crushing cross-body block. He fell to the turf and caught the top of DeAngelo’s sock with one finger. The running back high stepped and jerked free. Roy watched as he crossed the goal line at the other end of the field. They made the extra point, and the score was seven to nothing in favor of Central.
The Golfview team lined up to receive the kickoff. Ronnie Massey, the scat back received the kick and ran it out to the thirty yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Golfview fumbled the ball and Central recovered. On their next play, they scored another touchdown. They missed the extra point. The score was now thirteen to nothing after three plays. Coach Mays called a time out and the Golfview team ran to the sidelines. He didn’t call them men.
“I didn’t bring you here to have you lie down in front of the other team. You either get out there and stop them, or I’m going to forfeit and take you home.”
The team ran back on to the field. Roy and his team mates played an inspired game after that. They even scored. At the end of the game, the score was Central 13, and Golfview 7.
The rest of the season was a dream. Every team that the scrubby little Golfview team played lost. Central and Golfview met in the championship game. The scene was very similar to their first meeting except that Golfview had something to prove. Roy’s dad and mom had attended every game. Roy even had a girlfriend who ran on to the field and hugged him when the final gun sounded. The championship was a battle from the first whistle. The ball went back and forth between the two teams. At the end of the final quarter, the score was Golfview 14, and Central 7. The clock continued to run during the final two minutes. Central possessed the ball and drove to Golfview’s five yard line. The play gave them a first down. The big Central full back pounded the center of the line. In three plays he was at the one yard line. A defensive guard for Golfview fell and had to be carried off the field. Coach Mays looked to the bench and called for Roy.
“Get in there and seal off that gap. I don’t want anyone to make it through. Is that clear?” “Yes sir” Roy said as he buttoned his chin strap.
Roy got down in the awkward feeling four point stance of a defensive lineman. The center and guard across from him looked huge. He watched the center’s hands and moved when he snapped the ball. Roy lowered his butt and pushed his body upward with all his strength wedging himself into the gap. Through the mass of grunting, pushing flesh he could see the thighs of the big fullback coming straight for him. Roy lowered the crown of his helmet and strained forward with everything he had. The knees of Central’s big fullback hit Roy’s helmet and the runner fell just short of the goal line.
Roy could not hear the cheers or remember what happened on the play. He awoke minutes later on the sideline with his dad looking down at him and his girlfriend standing near by. His mother had already gone to the car. She just couldn’t stand to watch. Later he learned that he had held his ground. Golfview won.
Roy’s dad, who was gravely ill, didn’t live long enough to see another season, but sometimes one is enough.