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   Chapter 9 No.9

The High School Captain of the Team; or, Dick & Co. Leading the Athletic Vanguard By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 10052

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Could Dave Make Good?

Dave Darrin, a good deal disheveled and covered with soil and perspiration on his face and neck, came striding in after time had been called on the first half.

Dave's generalship had kept Hallam Heights from scoring, but Gridley hadn't put away any points, either.

"You saw it all from the side lines, Dick?" Dave asked, as the chums, arm in arm, strolled into dressing quarters.

"Yes."

"What are your instructions for the second half."

"I haven't any."

"Your advice, then?"

"I haven't any of that, either. Dave, any fellow who can hold those young human cyclones back as you've done doesn't need any pointers in the game."

"But we simply couldn't score against them," muttered Darrin. "So I know there's something wrong with my leadership. What is it?"

"Nothing whatever, Darrin. It simply means that you're up against the hardest line to get through that I've ever seen Gridley tackle. Why, yesterday I was looking over the record of these Hallam boys, and I find that they've already whipped two college second teams. But you'll get through them in the next Dave, if there's any human way of doing it. So that's all I've got to say, for I'm not out there on the gridiron, and I can't see things from the side line the same as you can on the ten-yard line. Perhaps Mr. Morton may have something to offer."

But the coach hadn't.

"You're doing as well as any man of Gridley could do, Darrin," the submaster assured the young second captain. "Of course, with Prescott at center, and yourself jumping around as quarter-back the team would be stronger. But in Prescott's enforced absence, I don't see how you can play any point of the line more forcefully than you've been doing."

But Dave, instead of looking puffed up, replied half dejectedly:

"I was in hopes you could both show me where I'm weak."

"You're not weak," insisted Coach Morton.

"That throws me back on thinking hard for myself," muttered Darrin.

Where a weaker man would have been pleased with such direct praise Dave felt that he was not doing his duty because he had not been able to lead as brilliantly as Dick had done in earlier games.

"Brute strength isn't any good against these Hallam fellows," Darrin told himself, as he returned to the field. "They're all A-1 athletes. Even if Gridley played a slugging game, it wouldn't bear these Hallam boys down. As to speed and scientific points, they seem to be our masters. Whatever we do against them, it must be something seldom heard of on the gridiron something that will be so brand new that they can't get by it."

Yet twice in the half that followed Gridley barely escaped having to make a safety to save their goal line. Each time, however, Dave wriggled out of it.

When there were but seven minutes left neither team had scored.

Gridley now had the ball for snap-back at its own twenty-five-yard line.

The most that home boosters were hoping for now was that Gridley would be able to hold down the game to no score.

Dave had been thinking deeply. He had just found a chance to mutter orders swiftly.

Fenton, little, wiry and swift, was to-day playing at left end, the position that Dick himself had made famous in the year before.

"Eighteen--three-eleven--seven--nine!" called Tom Reade, crisply.

The first four figures called off the play that Gridley was to make, or to pretend to make. But that nine, capping all at the end, caused a swift flutter in Gridley hearts. For that nine, at the end of the signal, called for a fake play.

Yet the instant that the whistle trilled out its command every

Gridley player unlimbered and dashed to the position ordered.

Only three men on the team understood what was contemplated. Coach Morton, from the side lines, had looked puzzled from the moment that he heard the signal.

Dick Prescott, eager for his chum's success, as well as the team's, stood as erect as he could beside Mr. Morton, trying to take in the whole field with one wide, sweeping glance.

As Tom Reade caught the ball on its backward snap, he straightened up, tucking the ball under his left arm and making a dash for Gridley's right end.

Immediately, of course, Hallam rushed its men toward that point.

Yet the movements of Gridley's right wing puzzled the visitors. For all of Dave's right flankers dashed forward, making an effective interference.

Surely, reasoned Captain Forsythe, Tom Reade didn't mean to try to break through by himself with the pigskin.

That much was a correct guess. Tom didn't intend anything of the sort.

All in a flash Reade, as prearranged, dropped the ball, punting it vigorously.

Up it went, soaring obliquely over Gridley's left flank and far beyond.

Just a second before the ball itself started, little Fenton had put himself in motion. By the time that the ball was in the air Fenton was past Hallam's line and scorching down the field.

Now Forsythe and every Hallam man comprehended all in a flash.

Fenton had caught th

e ball with a nicety that brought wild whoops from the Gridley boosters, now standing on their seats and waving the Gridley colors.

"That little fellow looks like a streak of light," yelled one

Gridley booster.

The description wasn't a bad one. Fenton was doing some of the finest sprinting conceivable. Before him nothing menaced but big Harlowe, Hallam's fullback. Harlowe, however, was hurling himself straight in the impetuous way of little Fenton.

It looked like a bump. There could be but one result. Fenton would have to go down to save the ball.

Harlowe reached out to tackle.

Fenton came to a quivering stop, just out of reach. Then, almost instantly, the little left end dashed straight forward again.

But the move had been enough to fool Harlowe. Of course, he assumed that Fenton would spring to one side. Harlowe imagined that it would be a dodge to the left, and Harlowe leaped there to tackle his man.

But Fenton, actually going straight ahead, fooled the calculation of his powerful adversary and got past on the clever trick.

Harlowe dashed after his sly opponent. But Fenton, still almost with his first big breath in his lungs, was running as fast as ever. A man of Harlowe's size was no one to send after a greased mosquito like Fenton.

So nothing hindered. Amid the wildest, noisiest rooting, Fenton stepped it over Hallam's now undefended goal line, reached down and pressed the pigskin against the earth for a touchdown.

On the grand stand the noise was deafening. The whistle sounded and the flushed players of both teams came back to range up for the kick from field. Dave, his cheeks glowing, took the kick. He sent a clean one that scored one more point for Gridley.

The cheering and the playing of the band still continued when the two elevens again lined up for play during the last five minutes of the game. The referee was obliged to signal to the leader to stop his musicians.

Forsythe looked hot and weary. His expectation of an easy victory had come to naught. Unless he and ten other Hallam boys could work wonders in five minutes.

But they couldn't and didn't. The time keeper brought the game to a close.

"Gridley has handed us six to nothing," muttered Forsythe, as he led his disheartened fellows from the field. "That puts us with the other second-rate teams in the state."

"A great lot of orders you needed, didn't you?" was Captain Dick

Prescott's happy greeting as Dave met him beyond the side lines.

"You won that game for us, just the same," retorted Dave.

"I?" demanded Dick, in genuine amazement.

"Yes; you, and no one else."

"How?"

"You refused to give me a hint. You threw me down hard, on my own resources. I saw all those hundreds of people demanding that Gridley win," retorted Dave. "What could I do? I had to make the fellows do something like what they've been doing under Dick Prescott, or confess myself a dub. I couldn't lean on a word from you, Dick. So you fairly drove me into planning something that would either carry off the game or make us look like chromos of football players. You wouldn't say a word, Prescott, that would take any of the blame on yourself! So didn't you force me to win!"

"That's ingenious, but not convincing," retorted Dick, as the two chums stepped into dressing quarters. "To tell you the truth, Dave, I think a good many people now believe that you ought to be the regular captain."

But Darrin only grinned. He knew better.

Some of the fellows tried to praise Fenton to his face.

"Quit! You can't get away with that," chuckled the fast little

left end. "Some one had to take that ball and drop it behind

Hallam's goal line. I was the one who was ordered to do it.

If I hadn't, what would you fellows have said about me?"

By the time that the Hallam Heights young men were dressed several of them came to the Gridley quarters, Forsythe at their head.

"We want to shake hands," laughed Forsythe, "and to make sure that you have no hard feelings for what we tried to do to you."

Dick and Darrin took this in laughing goodfellowship.

"If you call this your dub team to-day," continued Forsythe, a bit more gloomily, "we shudder to think what would have happened to us had you put in your regular line-up."

"There isn't any dub team in Gridley," spoke Dick quickly. "All of our fellows are trained in the same way, by the same coach, and we stake all our chances on any line-up that's picked for the day. It was hard on you, gentlemen, that my knee put me out for the day. Darrin is twice as crafty as I am."

"Oh, Darrin is crafty, all right," agreed Forsythe cheerfully.

"But, somehow, I like him for it."

On some of the side streets Gridley boys were allowed to light bonfires that evening, and there was general rejoicing of a lively nature. From the news that had come over concerning the Hallam Heights team there had been a good deal of fear that Gridley would, on this day, receive a set-back to its rule of always winning.

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