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Clint's knee remained painful for more than a week, during which time he took no part in practice except, at "Boots'" direction, to watch from the bench and, later, to follow the squad during signal work. Meanwhile the obnoxious Robbins--who was in reality a very decent fellow and one whom Clint could have liked had they not been rivals--was performing quite satisfactorily without displaying any remarkable brilliance. Coach Robey made two changes in the line-up of the 'varsity on Thursday of that week in preparation for the game with Chambers Tech. St. Clair went in at left half-back, vice Still, and Blaisdell ousted Churchill at left guard. The Chambers contest was one which Brimfield wanted very much to win. Last year Chambers had thoroughly humiliated the Maroon-and-Grey, winning 30--9 in a contest which reflected little credit on the loser. Brimfield had been caught in the middle of a bad slump on that occasion. This year, however, no slump was apparent as yet and the school thirsted for and expected a victory decisive enough to wipe out the stigma of last Fall's defeat. The game was to be played at Brimfield, a fact which was counted on to aid the home team. The school displayed far more interest in Saturday's game than in any other on the schedule except, of course, the final conflict with Claflin, and displayed a confidence rather out of proportion to the probabilities. For Chambers had played six games so far this Fall, to Brimfield's five, and had won five of them and tied the other, a record superior to the Maroon-and-Grey's.
There was no practice that afternoon for the second and so Clint witnessed the Chambers game from the grand-stand in company with Amy and Bob Chase. Chase was a Sixth Form fellow, long, loose-jointed and somewhat taciturn. He with his partner, Brooks, had won the doubles in the tennis tournament a few days previously. Before the game was more than five minutes old he had surprised Clint with the intimate knowledge he displayed of football. Possibly Amy discerned his chum's surprise; for he said: "I forgot to tell you, Clint, that Bob is the fellow who invented the modern game of American football, he and Walter Camp together, that is. And I've always suspected that Bob gives Camp too much credit, at that!"
"I played four years," said Chase quietly, "and was crazy about it. But I got a broken collar-bone one day and my folks were scared and asked me to give it up. So I did."
Clint pondered that. He wondered if he would be so complaisant if his parents made a like request, and greatly feared he wouldn't.
"You must have hated to do it," he said admiringly.
Chase nodded. "I did. But I argued it like this. Dad was paying a lot of good money for my education, and he hasn't very much of it, either, and if he didn't want to risk the investment I hadn't any right to ask him to. Because, of course, if I went and busted myself up I'd be more or less of a dead loss. Any amount of education doesn't cut much figure if you can't make use of it."
"N-no, but--fellows don't get really hurt very often," replied Clint.
"Not often, but there was no way of proving to dad's satisfaction that I mightn't, you see. And then, once when we went to a Summer resort down in Maine there was a chap there, a great, big six-footer of a fellow, who used to be wheeled around on a reclining chair. He'd got his in football. And that rather scared me, I guess. Not so much on my account as on dad's. I knew he'd be pretty well disappointed if he paid for my school and college courses and in return got only an invalid in a wheel-chair."
"So, very wisely," said Amy, "you dropped football and took up a gentleman's game?"
"Well, I'd always liked tennis," conceded Chase. "Funny thing, though, that, after all, I got hurt worse in tennis than I did in four years of football." Clint looked curious and Chase went on. "I was playing in a doubles tournament at home Summer before last and my partner and I hadn't worked together before and there was a high one to the back of the court and we both made for it. I got the ball and he got me; on the back of the head with his full force. I dropped and they had me in bed three weeks. Concussion, they called it. I thought so too."
Clint glanced reflectively at his knee. "I reckon a fellow does take chances in football," he murmured. "I'd hate to give it up, though."
"I have an uncle," said Chase, "who used to play football a long time ago, when he was in college. In those days about everything went, I guess. He told me once that he used to be scared to death every time he started in a hard game for fear he'd get badly injured. Said it wasn't until someone had jabbed him in the nose or 'chinned' him that he forgot to be scared."
"I know the feeling," observed Amy. "Once when I was playing a chap jumped on me when I was down and dug his knee into my chest till I thought he'd caved me in. I was so mad I tried to bite his ankle!"
"He had a narrow escape from hydrophobia, didn't he?" mused Clint.
The first two periods of the Chambers game aroused little interest. Both teams played listlessly, much, as Amy put it, as if they were waiting for the noon whistle. There was a good deal of punting and both sides handled the ball cleanly. Neither team was able to make consistent gains at rushing and the two periods passed without an exciting incident. Amy was frankly bored and offered to play Chase a couple of sets of tennis. Chase, however, chose to see the game through.
"They'll wake up in the next quarter," he predicted. "They've both been feeling the other fellow out. You'll see that our fellows will start in and try to rush the ends when they come back. After they've spread Chambers' line a bit they'll hammer the guards, I guess. I think Chambers will try to punt into scoring distance and then let loose."
"A score in each period will be the best either side will do, I reckon," said Clint.
But Chase shook his head. "I don't think so," he said. "Maybe there won't be any scoring in the third period, but you'll find that the fur will fly in the last. Only thing is, I don't know whose fur it will be!"
"Well, I'll be glad to see some action," remarked Amy, yawning. "Compared to tennis this game is a regular 'cold water sit-around'!"
"What's that?" laughed Clint.
"Oh, that's a party where you don't get anything but a glass of water in the way of refreshments, and you sit around in a circle and tell stories."
"I reckon you're a big hit at those parties," said Clint. "When it comes to telling stories--"
But the rest of Clint's remark was drowned by the cheer that went up as the Maroon-and-Grey trotted back around the corner of the grand-stand. A moment later Chambers returned from her seclusion and her warriors dropped their grey-blue blankets and began to run up and down to stretch their muscles. Chase watched approvingly.
"An awfully fit-looking lot," he said. "I like them rangey, don't you, Thayer?"
"Yes, I think so. They do look good, don't they? They must average older than our fellows."
"At least a year, I'd say. Not much 'beef' on any of them. Hello, Robey's sending Tyler in at right tackle! Wonder why. Trow wasn't hurt, was he?"
"Hurt!" scoffed Amy. "How the dickens could anyone get hurt? He probably fell asleep in the gym and they didn't like to wake him!"
"Carmine's gone in for Marvin," said Clint.
"That means that Robey wants things shaken up a bit. Marvin's a good, sure player, but he lacks punch, Thayer."
"I know. He doesn't seem to be able to get the speed out of the fellows that Carmine does."
It was Chambers' kick-off and the ball travelled to the five-yard line. Carmine let it bound out, touched it back and the teams went back to the twenty. Carmine showed his ginger at once. His shrill voice barked out the signals impatiently and Kendall set off around his own left end. The two teams raced across the field, Kendall searching for an opportunity to cut in and finding none until he was almost at the side line. Then he twisted ahead for a scant three yards and Brimfield cheered.
Another try at the same end netted two yards more, and then Harris faked a punt and shot the ball to Edwards, who was downed for no gain although he made the catch. Harris punted to Chambers' forty yards and Edwards got the runner neatly. Chambers smashed through Hall for two, through Tyler for two more and punted on third down. Kendall caught near the edge of the field and ran back twelve yards before he was forced out near his twenty-five. A yard gain on the short side put the runner over the line and the ball was brought in. St. Clair tried right tackle for no gain and Kendall made four outside the same opponent. Harris punted high and short and Chambers made a fair catch on her forty-two yards. A fake attack on the left of the line fooled the Brimfield backs and Chambers came around the right end for seven yards. She made her distance in two more tries and placed the ball in Brimfield territory. But a smash at the centre was hurled back and on the next play she was caught holding and penalised. A forward pass grounded and Chambers punted to Brimfield's twenty where Carmine caught and dodged back for fifteen behind excellent interference.
"That," commented Thayer, "was real football. Now, then, Brimfield, show 'em what!"
End attacks, diversified by feints at the line, took the pigskin to Chambers' forty-four yards, and the Maroon-and-Grey supports were cheering loudly. Then Fate interposed and Carmine fumbled, a Chambers forward falling on the ball.
"That's the trouble with Carmine," grumbled Clint. "He fumbles too plaguey much."
Brimfield was over-anxious and Roberts was caught off-side. Chambers worked a double-pass and made six around Roberts' end. Two attacks on Tyler gave the visitor the other four and made it first down on Brimfield's forty-yard line. Again the home team was set back for being off-side. Chambers came through right guard for three and worked Edwards' end for four more. With seven to go, a forward pass was tried and succeeded for enough to make the distance. Things were waking up now with a vengeance and Amy was no longer demanding action. Instead, he was shuffling around on the edge of his seat, watching events breathlessly. Chambers was down to her opponents' twenty-four yards now, almost under the shadow of the goal and a place-kick would score once out of twice.
But Chambers didn't want the mere three points to be gained by the overhead route. Instead, suddenly displaying a ferocity of attack never once hinted at in the first half of the contest, she hurled her fast backs at the Brimfield wings and bored through twice for two-yard gains. Then a fake forward-pass deceived the defenders and the Chambers full-back broke through past Innes and Blaisdell for a full six yards and another first down. There seemed no stopping her then. Carmine was scolding shrilly and Captain Innes was hoarsely imploring the line to "get low and slam 'em back!" With only fourteen yards between her and the last white line, Chambers played like wildcats. A half fumbled behind the line, but the quarter recovered the ball and actually squirmed ahead for a yard before he could be stopped. Another attack on Tyler netted three yards more.
"Hold 'em, Brimfield! Hold 'em! Hold 'em! Hold 'em!" chanted the grand-stand. Clint was scowling ferociously and gripping his hands hard between his knees. Amy was patting his feet on the boards. Chase was studying the situation intently, outwardly quite unaffected by the crisis. "Someone," he observed, "is making a mistake there. They'll never get six yards by plugging the line. Why don't they make Brimfield open out?"
But evidently Chambers thought she could conquer by massing her attack, for once more she hurled her backs at the centre, and once more the Maroon-and-Grey yielded. But the gain was less than two yards and only one down remained.
"Fourth down and about four to go!" cried the referee.
Chambers changed her plans then, strung her backs out along her line and shifted to the left.
"Here comes a trick," muttered Clint.
"I doubt it," responded Chase. "It looks like it, and it's meant to, but I guess when it comes it'll be a straight line-buck with that careless-looking full-back carrying the ball. I hope Innes sizes it up the way I do, for--"
"Watch this!" Innes shouted. "Watch the ball! Look out for a forward! Come in here, Kendall! Throw 'em back, fellows!"
The Chambers quarter shouted his signals, the ball went to him, the two half-backs shot away to the left, the full-back plunged ahead, took the ball and struck hard, head down, at the left of centre. But Brimfield had not been fooled. Blaisdell wavered, but the secondary defence piled up behind him. The full-back stopped, struggled ahead, stopped again and then came staggering back, half the Brimfield team about him. The whistle piped, and--
"Brimfield's ball!" cried the referee. "First down right here!" He waved the linemen toward the Chambers goal and the grand-stand burst into a peal of triumph. Amy clapped Clint on the knee--fortunately it was not the injured one!--and cried: "Some team, Clint! Say, they play almost as well as the second, eh?"
And Clint, laughing delightedly, acknowledged that they did--almost!
Harris, well behind his own goal line, punted to safety, a long and high corkscrew that brought another roar of delight from the home team supporters and settled into the arms of a Chambers back near the forty-yard line. Two tries at the left wing and the whistle shrilled the end of the third period and the teams changed goals.
"Bet you it'll be a stand-off," said Amy.
"Don't want to take your money," replied Chase, with a smile.
"Who will score, then?"
"Brimfield for certain, Chambers perhaps. If Chambers scores it'll be from the field. She's killed herself."
And Chase's prophecy proved fairly correct. Chambers had shot her bolt. Brimfield secured the ball by inches on a fourth down near the middle of the field and her first desperate attack, a skin-tackle play with St. Clair carrying the pigskin, piled through for nearly ten yards, proving that Chambers was no longer invulnerable. Carmine, still in control, called for more speed and still more. The Maroon-and-Grey warriors fairly dashed to their positions after a play. Chambers called time for an injured guard and substituted two new linesmen. Kendall and Harris were poked through left tackle for good gains and St. Clair got away around left end and was not stopped until he had placed the ball on the twenty-three. A fake kick worked for a short gain through centre, Carmine carried the pigskin around left tackle for three, Harris hurled himself through the rapidly weakening centre for four more and on the next play netted the distance and a yard to spare.
The grand-stand had well-nigh emptied itself, the spectators hurrying along the side line toward the Chambers goal. Amy and Clint and Chase squirmed to the front of the crowd where Tracey Black was wildly imploring the fellows to "Keep back of the line, please! Don't get on the field, fellows!"
Chambers put in a new left half and Coach Robey sent Gafferty in for Hall. The latter had been pretty badly treated in the third quarter. The pigskin was on the Chambers twelve yards now and Carmine and Captain Innes went back and put their heads together. Then Harris joined them and the crowd along the edge of the field set up a demand for a touchdown. "We don't want a field-goal, Innes! We want a touchdown! Give us a touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown!"
But Jack Innes apparently thought a field-goal with its accompanying three points was sufficient to try for, for Harris walked slowly back to kicking position and spread his long arms out. But no one expected a try-at-goal on first down and there was none. Harris got the ball, made believe hurl it to the left, turned and raced to the right. Kendall and Carmine bowled over an opponent apiece and Harris ducked through and was pulled down on the six yards, while some seven score excited youths danced along the side line and howled gleefully.
Again Harris went back, but this time it was Carmine himself who sought a breach in the opponent's defence and was finally upset without gain. It was third down now, with four to go. The ball was well to the right of the goal, but Harris had done harder angles than that in his time, and hardly anyone there doubted that he would manage to land the ball across the bar. For there was hardly a question but that Brimfield was to try a field-goal this time. She weakened her end defence to provide protection to the kicker, both Kendall and Roberts playing well in and leaving the opposing ends unchallenged. But if Harris was capable of dropping the ball over from that angle he failed to do it on this occasion.
Back near the eighteen yards he waited, while Carmine piped the signal, arms outstretched. Chambers feinted and danced in her eagerness to pile through. Then back went the ball, waist-high, and Harris caught it and turned it carefully. The enemy thrust and struggled. An eager left end came around and went to earth before Roberts. Confusion reigned supreme for a long moment. Then the unexpected happened. Harris swung his leg, but he didn't drop the ball to it. Instead he turned quickly, tossed it a running figure which had suddenly detached itself from the offence and threw himself in the path of a reaching Chambers forward. Off to right shot the runner with the ball. Cries, frantic gasps from Chambers! A sudden scuttling to the left to head off the attack! But the Chambers left wing had been neatly drawn in and Steve Edwards had nearly a clear field in front of him when, ten yards from the side line, he saw his chance and dodging behind St. Clair and eluding the Chambers right half-back, he fairly romped across the line!
"That," shouted Amy, whacking Chase on the back, "is what is called strategy! Get me? Strategy!"
Three minutes later Jack Innes had kicked goal and turned the six to a seven. And five minutes later still the game came to an end with Brimfield once more pounding at Chambers' door. It was generally conceded that if the contest had lasted another minute Brimfield would have added another score.
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