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That game will live in history.
It was a battle royal between giant foes. On one hand was the confidence begat of fifteen years of almost continuous victory over the crimson; on the other the desperation that such defeat brings. Yates had a proud record to sustain, Harwell a decade of worsting to atone for. And twenty-five thousand persons watched and hoped and feared as the battle raged.
Down settled the soaring ball into the arms of Kingdon, who tucked it under his arm and started with it toward the distant goal. But eight yards was all he found ere a Yates forward crashed down upon him. Then came a quick line-up on Harwell's forty yards, and first Prince, then Kingdon, then Blair was put through the line, each for a small gain, and the Harwell benches shouted their triumph. Again the pigskin was given to Prince for a try through the hole between tackle and guard, but this time he was hurled back for a loss. The next try was Kingdon's, and he made a yard around the Yates left end. It was the third down and five yards were lacking. Back went the ball for a kick, and a moment later it was Yates's on her thirty-five yards, and again the teams were lining up. It was now the turn of the east stand to cheer, and mightily the shout rolled across the field.
Through came the Yates full, the ball safely stowed in the crook of his elbow, the whole force of the backs shoving him on. Three yards was his. Another line-up. Again the Yates full-back was given the ball, and again he gained. And it was the first down on Yates's forty-five-yard line. Then began a rout in which Harwell retreated and Yates pursued until the leather had crossed the middle of the field. The gains were made anywhere, everywhere, it seemed. Allardyce yielded time and again, and Selkirk beside him, lacking the other's support, was thrust aside almost at will. The Yates shouters were wild with joy, and the cheers of Harwell were drowned beneath the greater outbursts from the supporters of the blue.
Harwell appeared to be outclassed, so far as her rush line was concerned. Past the fifty-yard line went the ball, and between it and the next white streak, Harwell at last made a desperate stand, and secured the ball. At the first play it was sent speeding away from Blair's toe to the Yates mid-field, a long, clean, high kick, that led the forwards down under it in time to throw the waiting back ere he had taken a step, and that brought shouts of almost tearful delight from the Harwell sympathizers. Back to her line-bucking returned Yates, and slowly, but very surely, the contest moved over the lost ground, back toward the Harwell goal. The fifty-five-yard line was passed again, the fifty, the forty-five, and here or there holes were being torn in the Harwell line, and the crimson was going down before the blue. At her forty-yard line Harwell stayed again for a while the onslaught of the enemy, and tried thrice to make ground through the Yates line. Then back to the hands of Wilkes went the oval and again the heart-breaking rout began.
YATES. Full-back ELTON, 184 Right Left Half-Back Half-Back THOMPSON, 153 CUSHING, 157 BIRCH, 140 Quarter-back Right Right Right Left Left Left End Tackle Guard Center Guard Tackle End O'CALLAGHAN, FERGUSON, MORRIS, WILKES, ALLISON, GALT, FRASER, 163 203 197 204 194 189 150 Left Left Left Center Right Right Right End Tackle Guard Guard Tackle End DUTTON, SELKIRK, ALLARDYCE, CHESNEY, RUTLAND, BURBRIDGE, CHASE, 150 186 189 229 196 179 156 Quarter-back STORY, 144 PRINCE, 157 KINGDON, 182 Left Right Half-Back Half-Back BLAIR, 179 Full-Back HARWELL.
Harwell made her last desperate rally on her twenty-five yards. The ball was thrown to Blair, who kicked, but not soon enough to get it out of the way of the opposing forwards, who broke through as the ball rose. It struck against the upstretched hand of the Yates right guard and bounded toward the crimson's goal. The Yates left half fell upon it. From there, without forfeiting the ball, Yates crashed down to the goal line, and hurled Elton, her crack full-back, through at last for a touch-down.
For five minutes chaos reigned upon the east stand. All previous efforts paled into nothingness beside the outbursts of cheers that followed each other like claps of thunder up and down the long bank of fluttering color. Upon the other side of the field no rival shouts were heard. It was useless to try and drown that Niagara of sound. But here and there crimson flags waved defiantly at the triumphant blue.
The goal was an easy one, though it is probable that it would have been made had it been five times more difficult; for Elton was the acknowledged goal kicker par excellence of the year. Then back trotted the teams, and as the Harwell Eleven lined up for the kick-off Allardyce at left guard gave place to Murdoch. The big fellow had given out and had limped white-faced and choking from the field.
The whistle sounded and the ball rose into air, corkscrewing toward the Yates goal. Down the field under it went the Harwell runners like bolts from a bow, and the Yates half who secured the pigskin was downed where he caught. The two teams lined up quickly. Then back, foot by foot, yard by yard, went the struggling Harwell men. Yet the retreat was less like a rout than before, and Yates was having harder work. Her players were twice piled up against the Harwell center, and she was at last forced to send a blue-clad youth around the left end, an experiment which netted her twelve yards and which brought the east stand to its feet, yelling like mad.
But here the crimson line at length braced and the ball went to its center on three downs, and the tide turned for a while. The backs and the right end were hurled, one after another, at the opposing line, and shouts of joy arose from the crimson seats as gain after gain resulted. Thrice in quick succession Captain Dutton shot through the left end of the blue's line, the second time for a gain of five yards.
The cheering along the west side of the great field was now continuous, and the leaders, their crimson badges fluttering agitatedly, were waving their arms like tireless semaphores and exciting the supporters of Harwell to greater and greater efforts. Nearer and nearer to the coveted touch-down crept the crimson line. With clock-work precision the ball was snapped, the quarter passed, the half leaped forward, the rush line plunged and strove, and then from somewhere a faint "Down!" was cried; and the panting players staggered to their feet, leaving the ball yet nearer to the threatened goal line. On the blue's twenty-three yards the whistle shrilled, and a murmur of dismay crept over the Yates seats as it was seen that Captain Ferguson lay motionless on the ground. But a moment's rubbing brought him to his feet again.
"He's not much hurt," explained the knowing ones. "He wants to rest a bit."
A minute later, while the ball still hovered about the twenty-yard line, Yates secured it on a fumbled pass, and the tide ebbed away from the beleagured posts. Back as before were borne the crimson warriors, while the Yates forwards opened holes in the opposing line and the Yates halves dashed and wormed through for small gains. Then Fate again aided the crimson, and on the blue's forty-seven-yard line a fake kick went sadly aglee and the runner was borne struggling back toward his own goal before he could cry "Down!" And big Chesney grinned gleefully as he received the leather and bent his broad back above it.
Canes, crysanthemums, umbrellas, flags, carnations, hats, all these and many other things waved frantically above the great bank of crimson as the little knot of gallant knights in moleskin crept back over their recent path of retreat and took the war again into the enemy's country. Every inch of the way was stubbornly contested by the defenders, but slowly they were pushed back, staggering under the shocks of the crimson's attack. Chesney, Rutland, and Murdoch worked together, side by side, like one man--or forty!--and when time was called for an instant on the Yates twenty-five yards it was to bring Galt, the blue's left tackle, back to consciousness and send him limping off the gridiron. His place in the line was taken by an old Hilltonian, one Dunsmore, and the game went on.
And now it was the blue that was in full retreat and the crimson that pursued. Nearer and nearer to the Yates goal line went the resisting besieged and the conquering besiegers, and the great black score-board announced but eight more minutes of the first half remaining. But even eight were three more than were needed. For Harwell crossed the twenty yards by tandem on tackle, gained the fifteen in two downs by wedges between tackle and guard, and from there on until the much-desired goal line was reached never paused in her breathless, resistless onslaught. It was Wesley Blair who at last put the ball over for a touch-down, going through between center and left guard with all the weight of the Harwell Eleven behind him. His smothered "Down!" was never heard, for the west stand was a swaying, tumultuous unit of thunderous acclaim.
Up went the flags and banners of crimson hues, loud sounded the paean of praise and thanksgiving from thousands of straining throats, while below on the side lines the coaches leaped for joy and strained each other to their breasts in unspeakable delight.
And while the shouting went on as though never would the frenzied shouters cease, the grim, panting Yates players lined up back of their goal line, on tiptoe, ready at the first touch of the ball to the earth to spring forward and, leaping upward, strive to arrest the speeding oval. Prone upon the ground, the ball in his hands, lay Story. A yard or two distant Blair directed the pointing of it. The goal was a most difficult one, from an angle, and long the full-back studied and directed, until faint groans of derision arose from the impatient east stand and the men behind the goal line moved restively.
"Lacing to you," said Blair quietly. Story shifted the ball imperceptibly.
"More." The quarter-back obeyed.
"Cock it." Higher went the end toward the goal.
"Not so much." It was lowered carefully, slowly.
"Steady." Blair stepped back, glanced once swiftly at the cross-bar, and stepped forward again.
"Down!" Story's left hand touched the grass, the Yates men surged forward, there was a thud, and--
Upward sped the ball, rising, rising, until it topped the bar, then slowly turning over, over in its quickening descent. But the nearly silent west stand had broke again into loud cries of triumph, and upon the face of the Scoreboard appeared the momentous word, "GOAL!"
Again the ball was put in play, but the half was soon over and the players, snatching their blankets, trotted to the dressing rooms. And the score-board announced:
"Opponents, 6. Yates, 6."
As the little swinging door closed behind him Joel found himself in a seething mass of players, rubbers, and coaches, while a babel of voices, greetings, commands, laughter, and lament, confused him. It was a busy scene. The trainer and his assistants were working like mad. The doctor and the head coach were talking twenty to the second. Everybody was explaining everything, and the indefatigable coaches were hurrying from man to man, instructing, reminding, and scolding.
Joel had only to look on, save when he lent a hand at removing some torn and stubborn jersey, or at finding lost shin-guards and nose masks, and so he found a seat out of the way, and, searching the room with his gaze, at length found Prince. That gentleman was having a nice, new pink elastic bandage put about his ankle. He was grinning sturdily, but at every clutch of the web his lips twitched and his brow puckered. Joel watching him wondered how much more he would stand, and whether his (Joel's) chance would come ere the fatal whistle piped the end of the match.
"Time's up!" cried the head coach suddenly, and the confusion redoubled until he mounted to a bench and clapped his hands loudly above the din. Comparative silence ensued. "Fellows," he began, "here's the list for the next half. Answer to your names, please. And go over to the door. Fellows, you'll have to make less noise. Dutton, Selkirk, Murdoch--Murdoch?"
"Right!" The voice emerged from the folds of a woolen sweater which had stubbornly refused to go on or off. With a smile the head coach continued the list, each man responding as his name was announced and crowding to the doorway.
"Chesney, Rutland, Burbridge, Barton--"
A murmur arose from the listening throng, and Chase, a tall, pale-faced youth, his cheek exhibiting the marks of a contact with some one's shoe cleats, groaned loudly and flung himself on to a bench, where he sat looking blindly before him until the list was finished.
"Here!" called the latter, jumping from his seat. Then a sharp, agonized cry followed, and Prince toppled over, clutching vainly at the air. The head coach paused. The doctor and the trainer pushed toward the fallen man, and a moment later the former announced quietly:
"He's fainted, sir."
"Can he go on?" asked the head coach.
"He is out of the question. Ankle's too painful. I couldn't allow it."
"Very well," answered the other as he amended the list. "Kingdon, Blair, March."
Joel's heart leaped as he heard his name pronounced, and he tried to answer.
"March?" demanded the head coach impatiently; and
"Here, sir!" gulped Joel, rushing to the door.
"All right," continued the head coach. "There isn't time for any fine phrases, fellows, and if there was I couldn't say them so that they'd do any good. You know what you've got to do. Go ahead and do it. You have the chance of wiping out a good many defeats, more than it's pleasant to think about. The college expects a great deal from you. Don't disappoint it. Play hard and play together. Don't give an inch; die first. Tackle low, run high, and keep your eyes on the ball! And now, fellows, three times three for Harwell!"
And what a cheer that was! The little building shook, the men stood on their toes; the head coach cheered himself off the bench; and Joel yelled so desperately that his breath gave out at the last "Rah!" and didn't come back until the little door was burst open and he found himself leaping the fence into the gridiron.
And what a burst of sound greeted their reappearance! The west stand shook from end to end. Crimson banners broke out on the breeze, every one was on his feet, hats waved, umbrellas clashed, canes swirled. A youth in a plaid ulster went purple in the face at the small end of a five-foot horn; and for all the sound it seemed to make it might as well have been a penny whistle. The ushers waved their arms, but to no purpose, since the seats heeded them not at all, but shouted as their hearts dictated and as their throats and lungs allowed.
Joel, gazing about him from the field, felt a shiver of emotion pass through him. They were cheering him! He was one of the little band in honor of which the flags waved, the voices shouted, and the songs were sung! He felt a lump growing in his throat, and to keep down the tears that for some reason were creeping into his eyes, he let drive at a ball that came bumping toward him and kicked it so hard that Selkirk had to chase it half down the field.
"Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Harwell! Harwell! Harwell! Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Harwell!"
The leaders of the cheering had again gotten control of their sections, and the long, deliberate cheer, majestic in its intensity of sound, crashed across the space, rebounded from the opposite stand, and went echoing upward into the clear afternoon air.
"Harwell!" muttered Joel. "You Bet!" Then he gathered with the others about Dutton to listen to that leader's last instructions. And at the same moment the east stand broke into cheers as the gallant sons of Yates bounded on to the grass. Back and forth rolled the mighty torrents of sound, meeting in midair, breaking and crashing back in fainter reverberations. They were singing the college songs now, and the merits and virtues of both colleges were being chanted defiantly to the tunes of popular airs. Thousands of feet "tramp-tramped," keeping time against the stands. The Yates band and the Harwell band were striving, from opposite ends of the field, to drown each other's strains. And the blue and crimson fluttered and waved, the sun sank lower toward the western horizon, and the shadows crept along the ground.
"There will be just one more score," predicted the knowing ones as they buttoned their ulsters and overcoats up at the throat and crouched along the side lines, like so many toads. "But who will make it I'm blessed if I know!"
Then Harwell lined up along the fifty-five-yard line, with the ball in their possession, and the south goal behind them. And Yates scattered down the field in front. And the linesmen placed their canes in the turf, the referee and the umpire walked into the field, and the stands grew silent save for the shrill voice of a little freshman on the west stand who had fallen two bars behind in "This is Harwell's Day," and needs must finish out while his breath lasted.
"Are you all ready?" asked the referee. There was no reply. Only here and there a foot moved uneasily as weights were thrown forward, and there was a general, almost imperceptible, tightening of nerves and muscles.
And then the whistle blew.
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