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Chapter 30

A FOOTBALL VICTORY--CONCLUSION


"Whoop her up for Colby Hall!"

"This is the time Columbus Academy wins!"

"Not on your life! This is Colby Hall day!"

"You'll sing a different tune after the game is over!"

"Hurrah! here come the elevens now!"

And then a wild shouting, intermingled with the tooting of horns and the sounding of rattles, rent the air, while banners went waving on every side.

It was the day of the great game between Colby Hall and Columbus Academy. It had been decided that the contest should take place on the field belonging to the military academy, and once again everything had been put in the best of order for this gala occasion. The grandstand and the bleachers were overflowing with spectators, and in a distant field were parked a hundred automobiles or more, while in another field were numerous carriages and farm wagons.

"We've certainly got a crowd to-day," remarked Randy, who, with his brother, was in the section of the stand reserved for the Colbyites and their friends. In front of the twins and their chums sat Ruth, May, and half a dozen other girls from Clearwater Hall.

"I don't see anything of Nappy Martell or Slugger Brown," remarked Ida Brierley, who was with the girls.

"I hope you don't want to see them, Ida," returned Ruth, promptly.

"Indeed, I do not!" answered the other girl. "I was only wondering what had become of them."

"Jack told me they had both left the Hall for the term. They shot those cows, you know, and they had some other trouble which was hushed up."

"Oh, that was the trouble over that lumber raft," put in Jennie Mason.

"Right you are!" answered Andy, bending over and speaking in a low tone so that no outsider might hear. "Their folks had to pony up a pretty penny, too, for the lumber and for the cows."

"Oh, well, let's forget Martell and Brown," broke in May. "I want to enjoy this game."

"And that's what we all want to do," said Alice Strobell.

What had been said concerning Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell was true. Questioned by Colonel Colby, the two misguided cadets had finally broken down utterly and confessed everything, telling how they had once gotten into a quarrel with Captain Larkins on the lake and how they had sought to get square by tampering with the fastenings of the lumber raft and the towline; and they had also related the particulars of how they had watched Jack and Fred go out shooting and had then purloined the two shotguns from the gun rack and hurried over to the Lacy farm to shoot the cows. Mr. Brown and Mr. Martell had been called upon to pay both the lake captain and the old farmer heavy damages; and thereupon they had withdrawn their sons from the Hall for the time being.

"And I'm glad they're gone," had been Fred's comment. "I hope they never come back here again."

"Yes, we could do without Brown and Martell very well," had been Jack's answer.

Both of the cousins were particularly happy on this day. Jack occupied his former position on the eleven, and Fred had been drafted from the scrub team and put on the substitutes' bench in place of Brown.

"Maybe I'll get a chance to play!" cried the youngest Rover eagerly, when the football captain brought him the news.

"Perhaps so, Fred," answered Gif. "Although, of course, I hope none of our players get hurt."

As the Colby Hall eleven marched out on the gridiron, Jack glanced towards the grandstand and caught Ruth's eye. The girl gaily waved a Colby Hall banner at him. Then May caught sight of Fred on the side lines, and shook her hand at him.

Spectators from the town were almost as much interested in the contest as were the two schools. This football game was always the big match of the season, and many wagers were placed on the result. In the past the contests had always been exceedingly bitter, with the various scores almost a tie, Columbus Academy winning by a narrow margin one year and Colby Hall taking the lead by an equally narrow margin the following year.

When the Columbus Academy boys came out on the field, it was seen that they were good, husky fellows, every bit as heavy as the Colby Hall eleven. They looked in the pink of condition.

"I am afraid our boys will have their work cut out for them in this game," remarked Mr. Crews to Colonel Colby.

"Well, our boys look pretty fit," answered the master of the Hall.

By the toss of a coin, Columbus Academy won the choice of position, and took the west goal, the slight wind that was blowing being in their favor. Then the two teams lined up for the kick-off.

"Now then, boys, show 'em what you can do!" yelled the Colby Hall cadets, and then the school slogan rang out on the air.

"Put it all over 'em, boys!" yelled one of the Columbus Academy followers. "Come on now, all together!" he added, and started up a song, the refrain of which contained the line: "We're here to-day to bury them!"

"What an awful song to sing!" remarked Ruth.

"Oh, you mustn't mind that," returned Andy, gaily. "He sings best who sings last, as the cat said to the bird."

It must be confessed that both teams were rather nervous at the outset of the contest. The play was decidedly ragged, and one or two mistakes were made, which, however, profited neither side anything. The ball was carried first to the Colby Hall 10-yard line, and from there it went back to the Columbus 15-yard line, and then it sawed back and forth until eight minutes of the first quarter had passed.

"Gee! this begins to look like a blank," was Spouter's comment.

"So it does," returned Dan Soppinger. "Say! can any of you tell me why the----"

"Don't ask questions now, Dan," interrupted Randy. "Oh, look! look!" he burst out suddenly. "Isn't that great!"

The ball had dribbled back and forth until, by a punt, it reached Colby Hall's 20-yard line. It landed close to Jack, and like a flash he gathered it to his breast and started for the Columbus goal.

"Go it, Rover! go it!"

"Don't let 'em down you, Jack!"

With his friends cheering lustily, Jack sped on, dodging many straight-arm tackles, and skipping from right to left and then back again in order to avoid the numerous players who seemed to confront him as if by magic. Then somebody appeared on his left, and the next moment he went down with a thud, not knowing where he had landed.

"It's a touchdown!" was the cry, and then the Colby Hall followers went wild with delight, while Columbus Academy was mute. The girls stood up in the grandstand and waved their banners gaily.

"Oh, just to think, Jack did it!" murmured Ruth, and her face showed her intense satisfaction.

"Now if only Walt Baxter can kick a goal!" cried Randy.

But this was not to be, for at the moment the leather sailed through the air, a strong puff of wind came up and the ball went just outside the posts.

"Well, never mind," cried Randy, consolingly; "that puts us in the lead."

The run had somewhat exhausted Jack, but still he insisted upon keeping on playing, and after the wonderful exhibition he had made, Gif had not the heart to call in a substitute to take his place.

But if, with a touchdown in their favor, Colby thought to remain in the lead, they soon had this hope shattered. The Columbus Academy eleven played a fast and snappy second quarter, and, as a result, before it was half over they took the ball on a fumble and circled the left end for twelve yards.

"Say, that's going some," remarked Fatty.

"Oh, it won't net them anything," responded Andy.

But in this he was wrong, for on the next two plays Columbus carried the ball over the line for a touchdown.

"A tie! A tie!" yelled the followers of the Academy.

"Now then, boys, don't miss the goal!"

"It isn't likely they'll miss it," grumbled Andy. "The wind is in their favor." The goal was kicked with ease, and then the score stood: Columbus Academy--7, Colby Hall--6.

During the intermission between the second and third quarters, Gif and Mr. Crews gave the eleven some very pointed instructions. One player had hurt his ankle slightly, and he was taken out and a substitute took his place. But the substitute was not Fred, much to that youth's disappointment.

If the first and second quarters had been fast and snappy, the third quarter was even more so. Back and forth went the ball, and it was lost both by Colby Hall and by the Academy team. There were some really fine tackles and splendid runs, but all of these availed nothing. And when the whistle blew the score still stood 6 for Colby Hall as against 7 for Columbus Academy.

"Tough luck!" groaned Ned.

"Oh, we're going to win--I'm sure of it!" answered Randy.

"I hope what you say proves true," returned Ruth, hopefully.

Just before the whistle was given for the end of the third quarter there had been a grand crash and a fierce mix-up on the field. Then it was found that both a Columbus Academy player and a Colby Hall youth would have to be taken out of the game.

"Now then, Fred, here's your chance," said Gif, coming up to the youngest Rover. "I'm going to put you in, and I want you to help us win the game."

"Win it is!" cried Fred, his eyes shining eagerly. "We'll either win or we'll die!"

When the whistle blew for the final quarter, all of the players who trooped on the field had a do-or-die expression on their faces. Once more the play became fast and furious, and, as a result, in less than three minutes Columbus Academy scored another touchdown, which, however, failed of a goal.

"Hurrah! That's the way to do it!" yelled their followers in keen delight.

"Brace up, boys! brace up! This won't do at all. Come on now, all together!" And then Colby Hall went in with renewed vigor so that inside of a few minutes more they, too, had scored another touchdown, and from this they managed to kick a goal.

"Hello! what do you know about that! Another tie!"

"Thirteen to thirteen! Same as that other game! Say, this is getting mighty interesting!"

So far, Fred, although he had played as hard as anybody in the game, had failed to make any appreciable showing. Now, however, with only a few minutes to spare, he saw his chance.

One of the Columbus Academy players had dropped back for a punt. Fred, who was close at hand, made a sudden leap over a protecting half back and blocked the kick.

"Say, look at that! Fred Rover is in the game for keeps!"

"Send it back, Fred! Send it back!"

The words were scarcely spoken when the thrilled spectators saw that the youngest Rover boy had the leather. Like a flash he sent it rolling back, Gif coming to his aid.

"A safety! A safety for Colby Hall!"

"Hurrah! that puts Colby two points ahead!"

"Good work for Fred Rover!"

"Now then, Colby Hall, you've got 'em a-going! Keep it up!"

"Pitch into 'em, Columbus! Pitch into 'em!"

So the yelling went on while all of the spectators stood up in their seats, anxious to see what might be accomplished next. But there was no time to do more. The whistle blew and the great game was over.

Colby Hall had won!

In a twinkling the huge field was covered with spectators running in all directions, and the victorious eleven was surrounded. Many were the congratulations showered on all the players, and it may well be believed that Jack and Fred came in for their full share.

"The finest game I ever saw," declared Colonel Colby, as he shook hands with all his youthful players.

"Oh, Jack! It was simply grand--that run you made!" exclaimed Ruth, when she saw him.

"Yes. And the way you played for that safety!" put in May to Fred.

Columbus Academy was much disheartened over its defeat, yet it cheered the victors and was cheered in return; and then the great crowd gradually dispersed.

"Bonfire to-night, boys! And a big one, too!" cried Andy, as he rushed up to fairly embrace both his cousins. Then, to work off some of his high spirits, the acrobatic youth turned several cartwheels and handsprings.

"What a pity our folks weren't here to see this game," said Jack, wistfully.

"Never mind, we'll write them all the particulars," announced Randy. "And we'll send them copies of the local paper, too. That will have a full account of it," and this was done as soon as possible.

After the game refreshments were served to the cadets and their particular friends, and in this, of course, the Rovers and the girls from Clearwater Hall joined. Then the boys took the girls back to their school in an automobile.

"We are certainly having one dandy time at this school," remarked Fred, on the way back to Colby Hall.

"Right you are!" answered Randy.

"If only we hadn't had that trouble with Slugger and Nappy," remarked Jack.

"Oh, don't bother about those fellows!" cried Andy. "I don't believe they'll ever trouble any of us again."

But in this he was mistaken. Brown and Martell did trouble them, and in what manner will be related in the next volume of this series, to be entitled: "The Rover Boys on Snowshoe Island; or, The Old Lumberman's Treasure Box."

In that volume we shall meet all the boys and their chums again, and also learn the particulars of a queer mystery, and also of a great joke played upon Professor Asa Lemm.

The cadets of Colby Hall were a happy crowd that night. A great bonfire blazed along the bank of the river, and around this the boys cut up to their hearts' content. Then they marched around and around the Hall, singing loudly.

"It's certainly a dandy school, isn't it?" remarked Jack to his cousins.

"The best ever!" they answered in a chorus. And here for the present we will leave the Rover boys and say good-bye.


THE END.

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Edward Stratemeyer