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?
We were ready for Aunt Nora and Todd by nine o’clock on Sunday morning. There wasn’t much food in the kitchen, but there were a few toaster pastries so Scott and I each ate a couple of them.
“As soon as they arrive I think I’ll take off, Tony. I’ll have a big breakfast at home. I’d invite you but I’d guess your aunt will fix breakfast for you.”
“I’m sure of that,” I responded.
I heard the doorbell and let them in.
“Come on upstairs and I’ll show you what we packed and what’s left.”
Scott said goodbye to Todd and Aunt Nora and left for home. I took them upstairs.
“Everything we packed is in here,” I said as I led them into the guest bedroom.
“Whoa! That’s a lot of boxes!” Todd said.
“Let me show you what’s left.” I led them into my bedroom.
“Other than the two sleeping bags, the only things that are left are furniture and the TV and its remote. We watched the ten o’clock news last night. The weatherman said there’s a chance of rain on Monday.”
“We heard the same thing,” Aunt Nora said. Todd stood in back of her and made a face.
“Where’d you get all these boxes?” he asked.
“They were the boxes that Scott’s family used when they moved here from Chicago. Scott’s dad was really glad to get rid of everything we could jam into the back of his SUV. They even tied the hanger boxes on the rack on the top of the SUV. They have more boxes in their garage and he’s offered them to us for our move to Davis.”
“What’s a hanger box?”
“It’s a tall, strong box that has a metal bar going across the top. The bar lets you put clothes on hangers in the box so you don’t have to take them off their hangers and fold them up. They stay in good shape during the move.” I opened the top of the one that hadn’t been taped because it still had some room for other things. Todd peeked inside.
“I should have figured that out by the name.”
“It looks like you packed all of your things, Tony.”
“We also packed everything — except the furniture — that was in the guest bedroom.”
“Are you going to pack the sleeping bags?” Todd asked.
I thought about that for a few seconds. “Not yet. They might come in handy when we start packing all the stuff that's downstairs. The stuff in the kitchen, my dad’s office, and the living room and dining room. I’ll probably be invited to do a lot of that. Having the sleeping bags will give me a place to take a nap or spend the night.”
“I think we should head home now. Are you hungry?” Aunt Nora asked.
“Yeah. All I was able to find in the kitchen was a box of toaster pastries. Scott and I had two each while we waited for you. So I could use maybe a couple eggs and toast. And some coffee, too, to help wake me up.”
“How about some sausages or bacon?” she asked.
“How about some of both?” Todd asked.
“Either or both would be good,” I replied.
“Well then, let’s go.”
I pulled my bike to where Aunt Nora had parked her SUV and Todd and I wrestled it into the back. Then I went in the house and made sure everything was turned off and the back door and the one from the garage were locked. I set the alarm and walked out onto the porch and locked the front door.
“Goodbye, house!” I called out. It was kind of sad leaving because packing all of my stuff made it feel very permanent. It was the first time that the move to Davis actually seemed real.
Monday started off with rain, as had been predicted.
At breakfast Uncle Dennis asked, “If it rained all week would that impact your game?”
So we talked about what it might be like to play football in the rain on a muddy field.
“I think that it would affect both teams about the same,” Todd said.
“Yeah, that makes sense,” I said. “Thing is, we’re playing Riverview on their field. They’ll have practiced on it so they’ll be used to what it will be like at game time. Our field might be different, especially if it isn’t as muddy. But whatever it is, we’ll have to get used to it real quick.”
Aunt Nora turned on the radio to the all-news station. When it came on we listened to the weather report. The forecast was rain through Tuesday morning then clearing and nice through the weekend.
“Sounds like you won’t have to worry about playing football on a muddy field,” Uncle Dennis said.
“As long as the weather forecast was right,” Todd said.
“And the Riverview football field isn't a left over mud pit,” I added.
Todd and I walked to school in a light rain. We each wore a rain jacket with a hood. They were sort of like hoodies, but waterproof unlike most hoodies. There were no kids standing around outside the building, so we went directly inside and headed to our homerooms.
Mrs. Rodriguez, the Wilson High principal, made her usual announcements during homeroom. But this time there were more than the usual announcements.
“Don’t forget our Halloween Dance on Saturday. Wear a costume because there will be a contest for the ten best costumes with lots of prizes. It should be a fun time.”
Then what she announced included a big surprise.
“Our varsity and freshman football teams are both undefeated,” Mrs. Rodriguez said. “The Times has ranked both teams in second place in their listings. That’s a first for Wilson High School football teams. Our junior varsity team is in first place in league with just one loss. Our congratulations to all three teams.
“The next freshman football game will be on Friday, October 31st — yes, that is Halloween day — and it will be an away game at Riverview High and will begin at three thirty p.m. On Friday, November 7th the final freshman football game will be here at Wilson at Garrison Field playing College Park High will begin at three thirty p.m. To fill the stands we will have an early release schedule that day.
“The next junior varsity football game will be on Friday, October 31st, a home game here at Wilson at Garrison Field playing Riverview High. The final junior varsity football game will be on Thursday, November 6th, an away game at College Park High. Both games will begin at seven p.m.
“The next varsity football game will be at Riverview High, also on Halloween day on Friday, October 31st. On Friday, November 7th the final varsity game of the year will be here at Wilson at Garrison Field playing College Park High. Both games will begin at seven p.m.
“I encourage everyone to support our football teams by going to the the home games here at Wilson High at Garrison Field. I also encourage those who can get to Riverview High School and to College Park High School go to our away games at those schools to show your support for our teams and your school.
That announcement made the members of the freshman, junior varsity, and varsity teams feel like we were conquering heroes at school. It felt good for the guys on the freshman team to know that the whole school had been told about our record. The players on the junior varsity and varsity teams didn’t need extra publicity; they were already known and the players were recognized when they walked around campus. They had earned and wore their letterman’s sweaters.
Those of us on the freshman team were recognized by the kids in the freshman class, but we weren’t recognized by most sophomores, juniors, and seniors. We wouldn’t get our letterman’s sweaters until the end of the season.
I was recognized more than the other guys on the freshman team because of the posters and banner for the election that had my and Todd’s pictures, and my name had been in the story in the Times about our first game and in the article Todd wrote for the school newspaper.
At lunch there was another surprise. Coach Kavanaugh made an announcement asking the members of the freshman football team to stand up. We got a big round of applause. Next Coach Lenning asked the members of the junior varsity football team to stand up and they got a big round of applause. Finally Coach Hilton asked the members of the varsity football team to stand up and they got a big round of applause. That was very cool, especially since we didn’t know the coaches had planned to do that. Now a lot more kids would recognize those of us on the freshman team, and that made us feel great.
There’s a saying I remembered from a story I read for one of my classes, I couldn’t remember if it had been English or Creative Writing. “There comes a time when all good things must come to their end.” I could sense that end time coming for me.
Each day at school seemed to fly by at warp speed. It was almost the end of October. Our last two games would be on October 31st and November 7th. Our Halloween Dance would be on November 1st. The Veterans Day holiday is always on November 11th, and Todd and I would have our fourteenth birthdays on the same date. The combined birthday party for me and Todd would be on November 15th. Thanksgiving break would be the week of November 24th through 28th. Our Christmas Concert would be on December 19th and 20th. The Winter Break — which most of us called Christmas Break — would be the two weeks from December 22nd through January 2nd. The Martin Luther King holiday would be on January 19th. First semester finals would be January 20th through 23rd. Second semester would start on January 27th.
Just looking at my schedule was enough to make me dizzy. Besides all of those scheduled events we had our regular classes and we had to study for semester finals. There were the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with our relatives and the typical huge meals. And I would have to go shopping for Christmas presents, too.
And, to top it off, I’d promised that I’d help with the packing and moving of our stuff to the new house in Davis during Christmas Break. Of course, with Scott’s help I’d made a big dent in what I had to do by packing all of my stuff.
Something had to give. I decided that for me it would be the Halloween Dance. It would be the easiest to give up. All I’d have to do is not go. That also meant that I wouldn’t have to come up with a costume. Todd agreed, and we told everyone at lunch on Wednesday. We found that most of our friends hadn’t planned to go to the dance either.
I’d thought about what I’d said to Mom about inviting Tom Croyden to our birthday party. The more I’d thought about it the more it seemed like a really bad idea. He was a year older and a grade ahead of everyone else who’d be at the party. He wouldn’t know anyone there except me. Introducing him to my teammates and friends didn’t make sense. There was a chance he might tell someone that he was gay. That was definitely something I wanted to avoid because I wasn’t looking at Tom as a potential boyfriend. I already had Scott who was and would continue to be my boyfriend. I decided to leave Tom off my list of invitees.
Todd and I still had to figure out what to do about who we would invite to our birthday party, and if I should have a separate birthday get-together with the football team. So after school Todd and I talked about the options.
“Renting the cafeteria is out,” Todd said. “They only rent to organizations, not individuals. That’s because anyone who rents it needs something called liability insurance, and it’s gotta be — are you sitting down? — a one million dollar policy.”
“You gotta be kidding,” I said.
“Nope. I have no idea how much that would cost us, but I’m sure we couldn’t afford it, and our folks wouldn’t pay for it either.”
“I don’t get it. A million dollars?”
“I guess it makes sense. Think about it, Tony. What if a fire got started in the cafeteria and burned down the building. The insurance would be needed to rebuild it. It could easily be over a million bucks to replace our cafeteria.”
“I guess that’s not so ridiculous. How about the laser tag place?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I thought you were going to check out their prices.”
“Oh. I forgot, so let’s look it up now.”
“Let’s start with just our friends. That was twenty including you and me, right?
I logged on to Todd’s PC and did a search for laser tag. I found four places in the general area that had listings. For twenty people the lowest price I could find was $315 for five public games. Another place charged $1,038 for unlimited games for a private party including a private room with pizzas and sodas. I looked up both places on Yelp and found the best ratings were, of course, for the more expensive place. And it was all the way out in Concord!
“What do you think, Tony?”
“I think I’d better forget both a separate birthday party for the football team and inviting the team to our joint birthday party. I am going to invite Parker Hampson, though. He’s the one guy on the football team who I’ll invite because he’s a friend of mine and we both went to Carver.”
“What about laser tag? You want to get together for some games at that cheap place?”
“I’d say yes if there was a laser tag place here in Hillview, but that place is in Martinez. Getting everyone to Martinez and back would be a real hassle.”
“What about renting some laser guns and using your garage?”
“The only problem would be if it rains. It’s about three weeks before our party. Let’s look at the long range weather forecast.”
I looked for a three week forecast that included Saturday, November 15th.
“Okay, I found one, but it gives the weather forecast for November fifteenth a probability of only thirty-two percent for it to rain. That means the sixty-eight percent is they aren’t sure. I think we’ll have to wait a week when they have the ten day forecasts. Then it’ll cover the fifteenth and should be more accurate.”
“What weather does the thirty-two percent probability for November 15th predict?”
“Clear and the temperature in the mid-sixty degree range.”
“Hmm. Okay. With twenty of us why can’t we just have it in the house?”
“Whose house, Todd. Yours?”
“We could do that. Let’s ask my mom.”
“Before we talk to her, let’s figure out what we’re going to do. I mean, it’s a party. We need to have some sort of entertainment. I’ll start a list.” I got a pad and pen out of my backpack.
“Okay, why don’t you start,” I suggested.
“We could do our monthly movie event at the party,” Todd said. I wrote that down.
I thought for a few seconds. “We could set up areas for different multi-player video games. That could be fun. You’ve got a PS4 and I’ve got an Xbox. We could move the TVs from our house to yours. We could ask Brian and Scott if we could borrow their gaming systems. I think Scott has a Wii and a bunch of sports games for it.” I wrote that down.
“You know, maybe it would be better at your house, Tony. No one’s living there, so we could use your room and the guest bedroom and your dad’s office for video game rooms. Your TV’s still there and I could bring mine and ask Brian to bring the one he has in his bedroom. Your family room has a big-screen TV so we could use that for the movies.”
“Yeah. We could have a grab-your-own-slice pizza setup in the kitchen,” I wrote that down along with a new heading that it would be at my house.
“We could have music for dancing in the living room, and for just chilling to listen to the music.” I wrote down Todd's suggestion.
“If it’s not raining we could set up the ping-pong table in our garage, and if it’s cold we could rent a heater from that rental place that advertises on TV.” I added that to the list.
“That would be cool. I didn’t know you had a ping-pong table.”
“Yeah, we do. We usually set it up outside. But November isn’t warm enough for that.”
“Can you think of anything else?”
“Only we’ll have to decide on the time to start and end the party.”
“How about start it at eleven in the morning?” Todd suggested. I nodded and wrote that down. Then I asked, “When do you think we should end it?”
“Like, maybe four or five o’clock? That’s long enough and not too long.”
“When should we send the invites? I assume we’ll use that Evite website.” I added that to the list.
“I think now would be fine. Let’s talk to my mom and see what she thinks. Then you can phone your mom and see if she agrees that we can use your house.”
“Okay. I’m sure she’ll come down to supervise. And she’ll want to make sure that we keep everything neat and clean for the people who are buying the house.”
“I forgot about that. Your house isn’t really yours anymore. That means we won’t be able to use it.”
“It still is ours. Dad said the sale won’t close, that means the new buyer owns it, until January first; that was the way they wanted it. That means it’s ours until then.”
We talked to Aunt Nora and Uncle Dennis and they thought our party ideas were excellent. Aunt Nora phoned my mom and they agreed that our house would be best for the party. She handed me the phone. “Your mom wants to talk to you, Tony.”
Mom told me that she and Dad decided to come down on Friday November 7th for our game with College Park, take me to an early dinner for my birthday, then drive back to Davis on Sunday. Mom would come down on the Friday before our party and she and Aunt Nora would help me and Todd set up everything. She said to plan on how many pizzas we’d need and we should order them on Thursday so they’d all be ready to be delivered on Saturday at noon. I added all that to the list.
Aunt Nora said we should send out the invitations immediately. So Todd and I designed the invitation, entered the list of our friend’s names and their email addresses, and picked ‘Send Immediately.’ So, now it was official.
Todd phoned Brian and he said if we helped him he’d bring his Xbox and TV. I phoned Scott and he said he’d bring his Wii and his TV, and that his dad and Josh would help us set up the TVs and the video games.
Aunt Nora said we should order the extra-extra-large eighteen inch pizzas and figure a quarter of a pizza per person and get two extras. With twenty two of us plus my mom and Aunt Nora that meant six pizzas plus the two extra. That was eight pizzas in all. We’d have salad and sodas and a birthday cake and ice cream. We’d probably have pizza left over. That would be a good thing. I love left over pizza! And, we’d need sodas — lots of sodas!
Todd and I spent the rest of Sunday putting together the playlist of music that would play non-stop in the living room. We decided to wait until the evening before the party to set up the ping-pong table in the garage. That would depend on the weather.
The rest of the week went by in sort of a blur. In Football 1A we practiced on Wednesday and Thursday to make sure we had the new plays down pat.
Riverview had won all but one game, losing to Lehman by two points, 9 to 7. We beat Lehman by one point, 21 to 20. We came into the game thinking it would be a hard-fought battle. Except for Campo, the point spread for common opponents for both teams was very similar. They beat Campo by four points, 28 to 24. Wilson beat Campo by thirty-five points. We weren’t sure which Riverview point spread was accurate, Campo or the rest of their opponents. But we were about to find out.
The weather was warm for late October, and our field was dry so we assumed the field at Riverview would be dry, too. The bus ride took us about twenty-five minutes. This was a brand new high school. I’d read about their campus in the newspaper. It took over three years to finish the construction, and the school board members were upset about how much it cost. I expected something very impressive. And it was impressive. Their student body was about the same size as ours. Their senior class was the first one at the school. It was interesting that there’d be a high school with no alumni, but it made sense because it was new.
Riverview won the toss and received the kickoff. They moved the ball with a good running game, and made three first downs to our 42 yard line. Then they made their first mistake. They passed and, like he’d done in the Clayton Valley game, Darryl Chiu intercepted and ran it back for a touchdown. Marjory kicked the PAT and we led 7 to 0.
That seemed to set a pattern. Riverview stuck with a passing attack. It was still a mistake because Darryl intercepted a pass on their 38 yard line. We moved the ball to the Riverview 12 yard line with running plays, and I scored on a wide-out and cutback, one of our new plays. Coach decided to try a running play for a two point PAT and we were successful. Our lead at the end of the first quarter was 15 to 0.
Neither team scored during the second or third quarters. Coach had put in our second string to give them experience in a situation where we weren’t dominating the game with a huge lead.
Apparently we’d tired the Riverview defense and in the fourth quarter we were able to move the ball both with our running plays and passing for short yardage. We scored three touchdowns and Marjory made all of the PATs. The game ended with Wilson winning 36 to 0.
Coach Kavanaugh was very pleased. He talked to us after we showered and dressed for the bus ride back to Wilson.
“You guys are playing serious football. I’m impressed. Riverview was a good team with a good record. We have one game left, and College Park can be an effective opponent. I don’t know the score of their game this afternoon against Los Osos, but in their prior three games they beat Campo, Lehman, and Frontier. So guys, don’t think that College Park is going to be a pushover because they lost to Riverview 17 to 7 earlier this season. Not to put on any pressure,” — and that comment elicited a round of laughter — “but if you guys win the game next week you’ll have an unbeaten record. That’s something no other Wilson High freshman football team has ever accomplished. The College Park game is for Wilson High, and it’s for you guys, too. I know you can do it. So make your school and me proud of you, and be ready to win our last game of this season. It’s a home game, and you heard our Principal, Paula Rodriguez, announce our record and encourage the student body to attend the game. This is a great opportunity to show everyone what you guys can do!”
We gave Coach Kavanaugh a loud yell, and I sat back to think about what he’d told us.
I must have fallen asleep in the bus returning us to Wilson. I felt someone shaking me, and I opened my eyes. It was Parker.
“Wake up, Tony. We’re back at school.”
I laughed. “I guess Coach put me to sleep.”
“Me too. He’s been listening to Jacob too often. He’s picking up some of his rah-rah stuff.”
I got up, grabbed my gym bag, and got off the bus.
“You need a ride?” Parker asked.
“If it won’t be out of your way, that would be nice. I’m going to Todd’s house. It’s close to school.”
“You staying overnight with him?” He wiggled his eyebrows.
“Yes and no. Yes I’m staying overnight at his house. No, my aunt, Todd’s mom, set up their guest bedroom for me. Anyway, tomorrow Todd and I are planning our joint birthday party. You’re invited, but I can’t invite all the guys from the football team because my mom says it’d be too many. Since you’re the other guy on the team from Carver, and I’ve known you since sixth grade, I wanted to ask you to come to my fourteenth birthday party.”
“Yeah, I got the Evite. Thanks, Tony. I already responded to the Evite and I’ll be there. When is your birthday?”
“Our birthdays are on November 11th which is a Tuesday. That’s why we’re having the party on the following Saturday.”
“It’s so cool that you’re actually like twin brothers and not just cousins.”
“Yeah. We’re best friends, too.”
“Hey, there’s my mom. You can give her directions to Todd’s house.”
We got in the car. “Hi, Mrs. Hampton.”
“Hello, Tony. You need a ride home?”
“Not to my house. I’m going to my cousin’s house so we can work on plans for our joint birthday party on the fifteenth.”
“Mom, Tony and Todd look like twin brothers and were born on the same day but in different parts of the country,” Parker explained.
“You’re on the football team, Tony?” she asked.
“Yes. I play in the backfield on offense most of the time.”
“Is your cousin Todd on the team too?”
“No. He’s going out for basketball.”
“So he’s taller than you?”
“No, we’re the same height and close to the same weight. He’s really good at shooting three-point baskets, sort of like Stephen Curry of the Warriors.”
“And you’re cousins?”
“Uh huh. When we get there I can have him come out so you can see us together.”
“So, how do we get where we’re going?” she asked, grinning. I gave her the directions.
Todd was sitting on the front porch reading when we pulled up and he walked to the sidewalk to say hi to Parker. When Mrs. Hampson saw us standing together she got out of the car and walked up to us. Parker introduced her to Todd.
“That’s amazing. If I’d seen you two together I’d have sworn you were twin brothers, identical twins since you look exactly alike. Well, nice to have met you, Todd. We have to get going. I have a houseful of kids to feed.”
“I’ll see you both at school on Monday,” Parker said.
“Okay, see you,” we both said at the same time.
“So, did Wilson win the game?” Todd asked as we walked up to the house.
“Yup. The final score was 36 to 0.”
“Impressive! Now all you guys have to do is win your last game. That’s against College Park, right?”
“They any good?”
“I guess. Coach told us their record was four wins and two losses, not including their game today.”
On Monday in Football 1A Coach Kavanaugh told us we weren’t going to learn any new plays. We’d use the new plays we’d learned for the Clayton Valley and Riverview games. We also found out that the College Park freshman team lost to Los Osos on Friday, 21 to 13.
“Guys,” he said, “I don’t want you to think you can win the College Park game without putting out a full level of effort. They’ve won four games so they aren’t going to a pushover. We have a big target on our backs. College Park would love to win their last game and prove that they are a better team than we think they are.”
Jacob Rummel jumped up and started a yell. “Who’s going to win our last game?”
“We are!” we all shouted.
“I didn’t hear you!” he shouted, even louder.
We all stood up and shouted, as loud as we could, “WE ARE!”
“Okay, let’s get our practice uniforms on and get out on the field!”
So we did. We spent the rest of seventh period practicing the new plays we’d used against Clayton Valley and Riverview. When we went in to shower and get dressed we all felt confident that we’d do well against College Park on Friday afternoon.
The rest of the week was just like the week before. Same-as, same-as. Well, not completely. In chorus we were confident about our Christmas Concert so our attention was on Les Miz.
In almost all of my other classes we reviewed material. This, we were told, was because there were only a few weeks left before our semester finals. Actually, we had about eight weeks until finals week. But reviewing the material that would be on our finals was something we had to do. The eight weeks were interrupted by Thanksgiving week and the two weeks we’d have off for Christmas and New Year’s. And there were two additional days off for holidays. That left less than five weeks of school. Starting now was a good idea.
But the focus this week had to be on our final freshman football game. Principal Rodriguez had arranged for an early release for our game on Friday. That meant most of the kids would actually come to see us play College Park. We wanted to show them how good we were. We wanted to be the first undefeated freshman football team in the history of Wilson High. Like Coach Kavanaugh told us, we couldn’t afford to be overconfident because College Park had shown that they weren’t a pushover.
By Friday we were ready. The weather was nice. Not too hot, not cold at all, and Garrison Field was dry. The members of the varsity football team lined up and cheered us as we ran onto the field for our pre-game drills. The home side bleachers were filled with Wilson students and quite a few parents, including Mom and Dad, and there were Wilson students on the visitor’s side as well. We were greeted by a standing ovation.
“Tony, check out the College Park team,” Jiago said. “Their whole team is just standing there wondering what’s going on.”
Jacob ran over. “Guys, let’s give all these fans a greeting. We’ll do a run-past starting on the visitor’s side then cross over to the home side. I’ll gather the other guys. How about you two start the run-past, and the rest of us will follow you.”
“I love it,” I said. So Jiago and I jogged to the visitor’s side and held our arms up over our head and clapped showing our appreciation for their support. We were followed by the rest of our team who did the same. When we got to the end zone we ran single-file across the field to the home side and then clapped for our fans as we ran along the bleachers to the other end zone and back on the field.
I looked across at the College Park team. They were trying to ignore our fans and what we’d done to show our appreciation for how they’d come out to see our game and stood to cheer for us. This was the best thing that had happened to me as a member of the Wilson High freshman football team. The way the rest of the guys were smiling I could tell they felt the same.
Wilson won the coin toss and College Park kicked off. We moved the ball using running plays until we got to the College Park 15 yard line. Mark Wicks came in at quarterback. In the huddle he relayed what Coach Kavanaugh had told him.
“I’m going to fake a pass to Cameron. Tony, you cross over behind me and I’ll hand off to you. You continue around left end and I’ll run toward the right end. I’ll try to make it look like I’m hiding the ball. You head for the end zone and we’ll see if they take the bait. If they do, you’ll have a direct shot for a touchdown.”
“Got it,” I said.
The play worked exactly the way it had been planned. I scored the first touchdown of the game and Marjory made the PAT. The score was 7 to 0.
College Park took the kickoff and ran it back to our 37 yard line. They were able to move the ball to our 17 yard line, but on the next series we held them so they were stuck with about 12 yards to go on fourth down. They kicked a field goal, making the score 7 to 3.
They kicked off and Pete Ross caught the ball on the 23 yard line and ran it back for a TD. We decided to try for a two-point PAT with a pass from Cameron to Pete, and it was successful. The score was 15 to 3.
We kicked off and held College Park to a gain of only 3 yards on three plays from scrimmage. They punted and Luigi caught the ball and ran it back to our 27 yard line. The College Park defense held and Marjory came in and kicked a field goal, making the score 18 to 3. That ended the first quarter.
We kicked off to start the second quarter and the ball went out of the end zone. College Park took the ball on their 20 yard line and on seven plays with six first downs they scored the only touchdown in the second quarter. They kicked the PAT and the score was 18 to 10 at halftime.
To start the second half Coach Kavanaugh put in our second and third stringers to give them more playing experience. They’d be the nucleus of next year’s JV team and some might even make the varsity. There was no scoring in the third quarter. The defensive units on both teams were effective. I watched the College Park line as the quarter came to an end. I walked to where Coach Kavanaugh was standing.
“Coach, the guys on the College Park defense have been in the game almost the whole game, and including some who’ve been on their offensive line the eitire first half. To me they look tired. How about we put Mark, Pete, and me in along with some of the linemen from our second and third strings and see how we do? It’ll give them experience playing against a strong passing offense.”
Coach Kavanaugh looked at me and smiled. “Sure, why not?” Since we had possession, he did the substitutions the way I’d suggested for the start of the fourth quarter. We started the quarter with possession of the ball on our 33 yard line. It was second down and 7 yards to go for a first down. Mark dropped back and tossed a sidelines pass to Pete. He caught the pass and ran to the College Park 38 yard line for a first down. The next play was a shovel pass in the backfield to me. Cameron was our fullback and as I ran past him I handed him the ball then blocked their defensive end letting Cameron run to the 9 yard line for another first down before he was tackled. The next play Mark handed off to Cameron who stayed in our backfield and threw a perfect pass to where he saw I’d be in the end zone and I caught it for a touchdown. When Marjory attempted the PAT it was blocked by a College Park defender. However, College Park was called for an offside penalty, and Marjory was able to make the second try. We led 25 to 10.
We scored two more touchdowns. We were on our 24 yard line and Mark threw a beautiful pass which I caught on our 48 yard line and outdistanced the defenders for the score. After Marjory’s PAT we were ahead 32 to 10. The final touchdown was from a handoff from Mark to me that I ran from the College Park 29 yard line to score. Marjory’s PAT was perfect, as usual, and the score was 39 to 10. Coach pulled Mark, Cameron, Pete, and me and put in some of our younger players who didn’t score but did a great job moving the ball whenever we had possession and keeping College Park out of our half of the field.
After showering and getting dressed Coach Kavanaugh called us for a meeting in the gym.
“Guys, you were great out there today and all season. It’s time you got your letterman’s jackets so you can get the recognition you deserve. As I call each of your names please come up for your presentation.”
He called us up in alphabetic order by last name. I was in the middle, and when it was my turn he handed me my jacket and I put it on. They were maroon with gold piping down the sleeves. The gold letter W with a maroon football logo and my name, Tony McKinley, in gold were sewn on the left front side above the pocket. I shook hands with Coach Kavanaugh and walked back to my teammates.
Jiago had taken off his jacket and was holding it up and looking at it.
“Hey, Jiago, pretty cool, isn’t it.”
He turned and looked at me. I could see tears brimming in his eyes.
“Tony, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my entire life.”
I walked right up to him and pulled him into a hug. We pulled back and grinned at each other.
“You deserve it, Jiago. You did a fantastic job for the team this year.”
“Thanks, Tony. You were fantastic out there today like you were in every one of our games. And you made four of our touchdowns.”
“I had so much fun playing football. If you’d told me on my first day here at Wilson if I’d be on the freshman football team I would have said no way, you’re crazy. I’d never played football before. I discovered that I loved it, and I loved being part of our team.”
They finished handing out the letterman’s jackets and we all put them on and headed for the quad and cafeteria for the free pizza. It was like a normal school day lunch period, a crush of kids lining up for pizza and sodas. Those of us on the freshman football team were recognized because we wore our letterman’s jackets. I was mobbed by my friends and classmates, congratulating me and our team on having an undefeated season.
Todd finally pulled me over to a table.
“Sit down. I’m gonna get you some pizza and a soda. Just don’t dribble anything on that brand new letterman’s jacket.”
He walked off and Scott sat next to me.
“Congratulations, Tony. You guys did such a fantastic job this year. You’ve raised the bar for every other team at Wilson High.”
“Thanks, Scott. Have you seen my folks? I want to show them my letterman’s jacket.”
“Yeah, they’re right over there with your aunt and uncle.” He pointed across the quad.
“Todd is off getting me some pizza. Hold my place, okay?”
I walked across the quad and tapped my dad on his shoulder.
He and Mom turned around and saw me standing there with a huge grin. I pointed to my jacket, then the letter W with the football logo and my name.
“What do you think?”
Dad grabbed me in a hug, then holding my shoulders pushed me back at arm’s length.
“I am so proud of what you did, Tony. You did it all on your own. No pressure from me to go out for sports or to play football.”
“And no pressure from your mother to not play football,” Mom said. “Well, maybe just a little pressure.”
“So you saw the game?” I asked.
“Of course. We also saw how the team showed appreciation for all of the fans that had come to see your game. That was a wonderful thing to do.”
“I’m so glad they gave us our letterman’s jackets today. We didn’t expect them.”
“You deserved to get your jacket, Tony,” Dad said. “And so did every other guy on your team.”
“I assume you’re going to the varsity game,” Mom said.
“Of course. Are you going to the game?” I asked
“I don’t think so. You sit with your friends and have a good time. We’ll go to your aunt and uncle’s house and visit with them.”
“Okay. Todd was getting me some pizza. I need to get back before he and Scott eat it and there’s none left. I’ll see you at Todd’s house after the game.”
The freshman team lined up for the varsity team to run past, just like they’d done for us. From their grins I could see they appreciated what we did.
All the freshman team members sat together in the stands. I realized this was probably the last time I’d ever be with these guys as a team. We watched our varsity win their game 24 to 0. It was a nice feeling being together with my teammates. It was a sad feeling knowing that I’d probably never see most of them again, and that I’d be at a different school next year.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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