They say everyone has a double, a doppelganger, someone who’s their mirror image. What if you just met your double? What if you were a thirteen-year-old kid who’s gay and you just met your double?
Monday during seventh period our Football 1A class met in room G-106 in the gym. Coach York got up and talked to us about his scouting trip to scope out the Del Rio freshman team.
“I went to the Del Rio freshman game on Friday afternoon. It was a home game for them, and they played College Park. We assume that College Park is going to be one of the strongest teams you’ll face, and they showed that against Del Rio. However, Del Rio had a very good game plan and the final score was 21 to 20. Del Rio lost because of a missed PAT. The Del Rio linemen are bigger than you guys. But I don’t think they’re as strong. They seem to be carrying more fat. But don’t get the idea that they’re going to be pushovers. Weight makes a difference, regardless whether it’s based on muscle bulk or fat bulk. They are going to be hard to move.
“College Park had difficulty with their running game, and they had to switch to passing more often, and they weren’t as effective compared to when they were running the ball. Del Rio also had trouble with their running game, and they didn’t score in the first half. The halftime score was 14 to 0. In the second half they’d tired out the College Park linemen and were able to score three TDs in the third quarter. They missed their second PAT, and got the third when the ball hit the upright and bounced through.
“It appeared that the Del Rio linemen weren’t as effective and they didn’t come close to scoring in the fourth quarter. Most of their possessions were three-and-outs. College Park was able to score on a long pass near the end of the fourth quarter. Their kicker is spot-on accurate, so when you play them it will be important to make all of your points-after and field goals.
“So, here’s the story about Del Rio’s game plan. They use the Power-I offense. Let me diagram their most often used running plays.” He drew three diagrams on the overhead. “They run two fullbacks in front of one tailback. It’s a ball control offense. They aren’t a passing team. That limits other options if their running attack is thwarted. They used the clock effectively against College Park. They would be successful against a team that doesn’t have a strong, physical defensive line, like Campo. You guys have a strong, physical defensive line, and their offensive line is mostly weight oriented so they won’t do well against you. One thing you have to be careful about is your defense getting tired and letting Del Rio overpower you.”
He continued by going into more detail about their playbook, which focused on five primary offensive plays with variations only on the center and sides. He also talked at length about their defense which, like their offensive line, used weight as their primary tool. Coach Kavanaugh handed out fact sheets for us to take home and study.
After Coach York finished his discussion about Del Rio, Coach Kavanaugh got up and went over a couple new plays he wanted us to try. He also said that Cameron would start at quarterback and Jiago at fullback, with me at wingback on the left and Parker on the right, and DeMarcus and Dennis as left and right tight ends.
Then Jacob got up and did one of his rah-rah speeches and got us excited about the game. Seventh period ended with Coach Kavanaugh recommending that we use the weight training room after school today, and that we’d have on-field practice during seventh period tomorrow.
On the way out I walked up to the front of the room to ask Coach Kavanaugh a couple questions.
“Coach, I couldn’t find anything about the JV game with Campo. What was the score?”
“The game was cancelled because too many on their JV team had the flu.”
“Wow. That friend of mine who’s on the Campo freshman team that I introduced to you Friday at Giant George’s, Brayden Adalma, didn’t say anything about the flu and he seemed fine, and so did all his teammates.”
“That’s because the freshman coaching staff at Campo insisted they get their flu shots, otherwise they couldn’t play. The Campo JV and varsity coaches didn’t do the same for their teams. I guess they thought it wasn’t necessary.”
“I think it is, and I’m sure glad we’ve all had our flu shots. I have another question. I’ll use the weight training room after school. However I always walk home with my cousin. He has seventh period PE. Can he use the room with me tonight?”
“You mean Todd Anderson?”
“Yes. Hey, you remembered who he is.” I grinned.
“You two are unique, twin cousins. So the two of you are easy to remember. Anyway, as long as there’s room for him, it’s okay. Remember that your teammates have priority for equipment, including weights and pads.”
“I’ll introduce him and make sure he knows the team has dibs on everything. Will the guys on the JV or varsity teams be coming in for weight training this afternoon?”
“No. It’s reserved for the freshman football team. The other teams have it eighth period and before school. I’ll add Todd’s name to the list for this afternoon so he won’t get hassled by Coach Lenning.”
“Thanks, Coach. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Before I left the classroom I pulled my cell from my backpack and sent Todd a text message: ‘wt rm is okay for you 7th period’
As I walked to my Creative Writing class I wondered what Ms. Porzio would say about my poems. All of a sudden I thought of something and stopped. What if she wanted me to read my poems? Shit! I should have thought of that before turning them in. Whatever.
I got to class and sat down. When the bell rang Ms. Porzio got right to the poems we’d turned in.
“I have to say that I liked your poems. Some were very funny, and that’s something I hadn’t expected. Some were personal, and others covered a wide range of topics including love, longing, romance, irritation, anger, and much more. I’m going to ask each of you if you want to read your poems. You can say no if you’re embarrassed to read what you’ve written. However, I hope you all will read your poems.
“When you come up to the front of the class to read your poems please read the title and the two poem types you selected. When you’re ready to read, state the name of first type and read that poem, then state the second type and read that poem. Then return to your seat.
“Please don’t applaud or ask questions during the readings.”
Okay, now what should I do? I decided to wait and see what the poems being read ahead of mine were like.
Ms. Porzio started in the first row by the windows and went across, then to the second row by the wall and back, then to the third row by the windows, and zigzagging back and forth that way. My seat was next to the windows in the fifth row. That meant that four rows would be finished then it would be my turn. Six seats in each row, times four, twenty-four seats. There were three empty seats in those rows, so that was twenty-one kids ahead of me. A few decided they didn’t want to read their poems.
Some of the poems were simple, some were sad, some were funny, some were about specific things like going to school and their grandmother’s life and why war needed to end and what it was like to be a lesbian in high school and… Wait! What? Whoa! I looked at the girl who just came out to our whole class. Amy Panella stood at the front of the class, grinning. She was a junior (the Creative Writing classes had kids from all four grades) and had read her title ‘A Lone Lesbian at Wilson High’ then stopped. People started talking to each other, and I guessed that Amy assumed that would happen and that’s why she only read her title.
Ms. Porzio rang her bell — it’s sort of like a cow bell — and everyone quieted down.
“Amy, please read your poem and start again from the reading of your title and types.”
“The title is ‘A Lone Lesbian at Wilson High.’ My first poem is in lyric form and my second is a rhyming couplet.”
It was about how hard it had been to keep who she really is locked up inside all these years. And how just saying the title of her poem gave her a feeling of freedom. It was a sad poem and a happy poem all in one. I noticed a couple girls dabbing their eyes, so Amy’s poem impacted them. I have to say it impacted me too, though I didn’t have to dab my eyes.
I could have hugged Amy Panella! I thought about my poem and realized that she provided the perfect intro to the subject of being gay. Mine was more in the humor category, and was about longing and lust.
When it was my turn I walked to the front of the room and turned to face the class. “The title of my poem is ‘I Like Boys’ and the first is a pantoum and the second is in prose form.
“Here’s my first, the pantoum, subtitled ‘I Like Boys, One.’”
After reading it there were smiles and a little almost-suppressed laughter. I looked at Andrew Grant, a really good looking senior with dazzling blue eyes and light blond hair, and he looked back and smiled. I grinned, and wiggled my eyebrows at him. Most of the class saw that and burst out laughing. I turned and looked at Ms. Porzio and saw her try to keep from laughing.
“Here’s my second, written in free verse, subtitled ‘I Like Boys, Two.’ That’s spelled t-w-o, not t-o-o.”
After reading it I walked back to my seat. As I passed Amy Panella she stood and grabbed me in a hug, and I hugged her back. She sat down and I walked to my seat and sat down. I felt great about my poem.
After the last poem had been read, Ms. Porzio asked, “How many enjoyed hearing this wide variety of poem types and subjects?”
Every one of us raised a hand.
“I’d like to point out that a poet, or an author, will write about things that seem very personal but may well be inventions. They may be things that the poet never experienced themselves. You’ve heard poems about love and lust and hate and theft and being gay. A few may be from real life. Most are creations from the minds of the poets. So please treat all student work that you hear and read in this class as fiction, and only talk about it with others who are in this class.
“I’ll hand out your graded poems as you leave.”
When I got to my locker I unfolded and looked at mine. I got an A+ on my pantoum, and an A- on my free verse. I was stoked! That was lots better than I had expected. I walked to the gym and waited for Todd. While I waited I took out my tablet and brought up the Kindle app, then selected the book Offensive Football Systems: Extended Edition and turned to the section on the Power-I offense and read it a couple times, then studied the diagrams. It’s a good idea to read about what formations your competition will use.
Todd arrived about ten minutes later.
“Sorry it took me so much time. We were getting the Roundtable ready to send to the print shop and one of the ads didn’t come through. They asked me to expand my interview story by fifty-five lines. I had enough left over information to fill it out without it seeming like fluff.
“So, what did you do in your Creative Writing class?”
“Everyone read the poems they wrote.”
“Can I see yours?”
“Hey, we’re supposed to use the weight training room.”
“We can do that. Let me read your poem first.”
“You can read it after.” I figured Todd would be totally worn out by the time we were finished exercising and would have forgotten about my poem.
“Okay, but why the hurry?”
“I don’t know how many guys will show up, so it’s best if we’re in there early so you can start using some of the equipment. Another thing, Coach Kavanaugh reminded me that the guys from the freshman football team have priority over visitors for everything: exercise equipment, free weights, floor pads, everything. So early is better before the entire team gets there.”
Todd shrugged his shoulders. “Let’s do it then.”
There were two guys and Marjory Stakker from the team and Coach Lenning. He checked us in, reminded Todd that team members have priority, and left us alone. I introduced Todd to Marjory, Ryan Wong, and Isaac Rochester.
“What do you want to do?” I asked Todd.
“Something to build up my arms and legs. What do you recommend?”
“Start with warmups. That’s important. Do some stretches, arms and legs. Try a few situps and pushups. Get on the treadmill and jog for five minutes. Then set the upper body machine to the pec setting for your arms, do ten reps, then rest for fifteen seconds, and repeat three or four times. Don’t set the weights too high just to show off or stoke your ego. Less is better until you get used to the exercises. If you have any pain or when your sequence is finished, stop. Go to the leg curl and extension machine and do the same sequence and series of reps. Again, if you have any pain or when your sequence is finished, stop and rest for at least a minute or two. After these sequences use the treadmill for about five minutes, then do some cooling off stretches and go take a shower and get dressed. I should be showering at the same time.”
“What about free weights? And other muscles?”
“No free weights until your strength and agility are up to form. We’ll work on the other muscle groups including your abs, glutes, trapezius, and deltoids when we both go to the SuperSport gym on Saturday.”
Todd made a face, then rolled his eyes. But he nodded a ‘yes’ and that sealed the deal.
“Your dad will have to come along to sign you up. I’m already a member.”
“Okay, okay. No problem. But if I die from all that exercising I’m gonna come back and haunt you the rest of your life.”
“I can understand that. As a result, I’ll make sure you don’t die from exercising.”
I grinned, and Todd couldn’t help but grin as well.
The Del Rio team came out on the field to do their warmup exercises. Just like Coach York told us, they were big but looked flabby. We sang the National Anthem and the Wilson High song. I’d made it a point to learn our school song. After all, I am taking Chorus and it would be embarrassing if someone discovered I didn’t know the words.
We won the coin toss and our offense took the field. As Coach Kavanaugh planned, I played left wingback. Coach York told us that the Del Rio defensive line might be big, but they weren’t strong and they’d tire easily.
Their kickoff landed in the end zone so we got the ball on our 20 yard line. We put on a long series of running plays aimed between their guards. That meant we were running at their guards, tackles, and center on most plays. Once in a while we’d do an end run or Cameron would pass to keep Del Rio’s defense honest. We used as little of the play clock as we could, using a no-huddle offense and a planned series of plays so we didn’t need to huddle. That didn’t give the Del Rio defensive line much time to recover from play to play. Our offensive line was used to the no-huddle play calling; we practiced it every week. We quickly moved down the field and it took us 19 plays to reach the Del Rio end zone and score a touchdown. We went for the two-point PAT and Cameron passed to me and the score was 8 to 0.
We kicked off and Del Rio got the ball on their 13 yard line and their kick returner backtracked as he tried to get around our linemen and was tackled on the 8 yard line, losing 5 yards. Our defensive line stopped them cold and they went three and out, not making a first down.
We used the rest of the first quarter scoring two more touchdowns and one field goal. The score was 25 to 0. Our technique to exhaust their defensive line worked, but our offensive line was beginning to get tired as well. Del Rio scored two touchdowns but missed both PATs so the score was 25 to 12. Coach began rotating in linemen from our second team to try to stop their passing attack. That was successful and the score at halftime stayed the same.
In the second half Coach Kavanaugh decided to send Mark in at quarterback and we switched to a passing offense. It was a success. We scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter making the score 39 to 12. Then Del Rio’s passing offense got to work and they scored three touchdowns, and the PAT was good for one of them. The score was 39 to 31 at the end of the quarter.
Our defense finally got it together and figured out how to defend against Del Rio’s passing attack. As a result Del Rio didn’t score in the fourth quarter. Our defensive pressure on their offensive line allowed us to break through and sack their quarterback three times. Their running game was stymied as well because we were able to block their running backs in the backfield on a regular basis. Their defensive backs seemed totally worn out, so we returned to our running plays with a few passing plays. This time when we got close enough for a field goal, Marjorie would come in to kick. She made two field goals out of three tries, at 27 and 31 yards and a near miss at 42 yards. This gave her the ability to practice in a real game situation which could be important for a winning season. In a close game where we were fourth and something more than a yard or two, and within 35 yards of the goal line, if we can kick a field goal that’s 3 points instead of none.
When the game ended we were ahead 45 to 31. Both teams lined up to do the walk-past and hand-slap thing the Del Rio guys. They really looked tired. While we didn’t blow them away, we did end up with a two touchdown margin. I don’t know about the rest of our guys, but I felt great. I thought they played a good game too. If they’d had a better defensive line the score would have been much closer. Our defense didn’t do as good a job as we should have either. I thought our offense played well, scoring 45 points against a tough team. We could have scored even more in the first half if we’d brought in Mark earlier to bolster our passing offense. I knew that Coach Kavanaugh would have a lot to talk about in our seventh period freshman football class tomorrow.
Now I needed to talk to Coach Kavanaugh to find out if it would be okay for me to skip watching the varsity game with Del Rio tonight. Heather wanted me and Todd to practice our speeches and Thursday night was the only time we had available.
I saw that he was about to leave the locker room, so I called out, “Coach?” and ran over to him.
He stopped and turned around. “Hey, Tony. What can I do for you?”
“I wondered if I could skip going to the Del Rio varsity game tonight. I have to practice my speech with Todd and Heather Miller. I’m giving it during homeroom for tomorrow’s freshman class election.”
“I’ve seen that you and Todd are running for class president and vice president. Which class office are you going to hold after the election?”
“I’m running for vice president of the freshman class, but I don’t know if I’m going to win. There are several other candidates, and I think the results will be close.”
“Well, good luck. And you don’t have to go to the Del Rio game tonight. If you have time you can tune into the school radio station and listen to the game. It’s streamed on the Wilson High website. Pick the link for the Del Rio football game.”
“Hey, that’s cool. Do they broadcast the freshman games?”
“No. Though I think they might be more interested in setting that up once they see our record. Anyway, tune in if you can.”
“I’ll do that. And thanks.”
“You’re welcome, Tony. See you in class tomorrow.”
“Right! See you, Coach.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
There are a lot of American football terms in this story. Not everyone, especially those of you who don’t live in North America, will understand them. Fortunately, the internet can come to your rescue.
There’s a quick introduction to American football with pictures at http://myfootballmentor.com/category/football-basics/.
Wikipedia has a glossary of American football terms at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_American_football and I recommend it as a source to reduce confusion.
There’s an image of a American high school football field with dimensions at http://www.sportsknowhow.com/football/field-dimensions/high-school-football-field-dimensions.html.
If you're not interested in football, you can skip these links. Tony would understand, and Todd might even agree with you.
To return to Chapter 10, Football 1A, if necessary to see this link press your browser's Back button, then follow this link: https://www.codeysworld.com/colinian/atwiaww/atwiaww-10.php.
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