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   Chapter 16 No.16

The High School Captain of the Team; or, Dick & Co. Leading the Athletic Vanguard By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 6427

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Gridley's Last Charge

"Remember, Captain Barnes!" called the referee significantly.

"Why don't you talk to Prescott, too?" demanded the Fordham captain sulkily.

"I don't need to."

"You--don't--need to?" demanded Barnes, opening his eyes in pretended wonder.

"No; Prescott and his fellows have a magnificent reputation for fair play, and they've won it on merit."

"You're down on us," growled Captain Barnes.

"I'm only waiting till I can put my finger on some slugging to stop the game and hand it to Gridley," retorted the referee, with a snap.

"Be mighty careful, fellows; be clever," whispered the Fordham captain to his most "dependable" men.

"Are we going to throw the game?" demanded the slugger who had so angered Hudson.

"No; but don't get caught at anything. Better not do anything. We've got those milk-diet infants eight to nothing now. Play their own kind of kindergarten game as long as we can hold the score without rough work."

Barnes's own instructions would have sufficiently stamped his team, had these orders been heard by anyone else.

At the beginning of the second half Fordham played a much more honest game, and Gridley began to pick up hope that fairness might prevail hereafter.

Gridley's own game, in the second half, was as swift and scientific as it had ever been. By sheer good playing and brilliant dashes Dick and his men carried the ball down the field, losing it once on downs; but after the first ten minutes of the half they kept the pigskin wholly in Fordham territory.

Back and forth surged the battle. Fordham, despite its greatly superior weight and bulk, was not by any means superior when under the utmost watchfulness of a referee avowedly anxious to penalize.

Yet, until the game was nearly over, Fordham managed to keep the ball away from its own goal line.

Then, while the lines reformed and Dick bent over to snap back, Dave Darrin called out a signal that electrified the whole Gridley line. It called for one of their most daring plays, that Prescott himself made famous the year before.

While the start, after the ball was in play, seemed directed toward the right wing of Gridley, the ball was actually jumped to little Fenton, at the left end, and Fenton, backed solidly by a superb interference, got off and away with the ball. In a twinkling he had it down behind Fordham's goal line.

Then the ball went back for the kick. The band played a few spirited measures while the wearied Gridley boosters suddenly rose and whooped themselves black in the face.

The kick, too, was won.

"Oh, well." growled Barnes, "we have two points to the good yet, and only four minutes and a half left for the game. Don't get rough, fellows, unless you have to."

As the Gridley boys sprang to a fresh line-up their eyes were glowing.

"Remember, fellows, the time is short, but battles have been won in two minutes!"

This was the inspiring message flashed out by Captain Dick Prescott.

With all the zeal of race horses the Gridley High School boys flung themselves into their work.

After a minute and a half of play, Gridley had done so much that, just before the next snapback Barnes let his sulky eyes flash

about him in a way that was understood.

Fordham must rush in, now, and hold the enemy back, no matter at what cost of roughness--if the roughness could be done slyly enough.

Then it came, a fierce, frenzied charge. The ball was down again in an instant, and Hazelton, a Gridley man, lay on the field, unable to rise.

Physicians hurried out from the side lines.

"Broken leg," said one of them, and a stretcher was brought.

"Have we got to stand this sort of thing?" demanded Hudson, in a hoarse whisper. "Say the word, and I'll send two of their men after Hazelton."

"Don't you do it!" snapped Dick sharply. "It would disgrace our school colors and our school honor. Don't let knaves make a knave of you."

Tom Reade came out on a swift run from the side lines to take

Hazelton's place.

"We ought to be allowed to carry guns, when we play a team like this one," blurted Tom indignantly.

"We'll pay them back in the score," retorted Dick soberly, though his eyes were flashing.

Dave, in the meantime, was swiftly passing some orders Dick had whispered to him. These orders, however, related to plays to come, and did not call for retaliation on Hazelton's account.

Play was called sharply. "Pay in the score," became the battle cry raging in every Gridley boy's heart.

Four successive plays carried the ball so close to the Fordham goal line that Barnes and his followers were in despair.

They still used whatever rough tricks they thought they could sneak in under the eyes of the game's officials, and some of these made the Gridley boys ache.

Then came a signal beginning with "three" which stood for reverse signal. The numerals that came after the three called for the same trick that Fenton had put through so splendidly.

Again the ball started toward the right wing. This time the Fordham players were sure they understood--and like a flash massed their defense against Gridley's left.

But on that reverse signal the ball continued to move at the right. Before Barnes and his followers could comprehend, another touchdown had been scored by the visitors.

And then came the kick for goal, and it was a splendid success. The kick came just at the end of the second half. That kick won the game for Dick's sorely pressed team.

Gridley's score, won by a cleanly played game against bruisers, stood at twelve to eight!

Now, indeed, did the Gridley boosters turn themselves loose, the band leading.

Barnes and his ruffians skulked back to dressing quarters, there to abuse the referee, the "Gridley kickers" and everyone and everything else but themselves.

It wasn't long before some of the Fordham subs slipped out to find their cronies and sympathizers in the crowd that was slowly dissolving.

Then the word was passed around:

"Wait and be with us. Barnes is going to stop the Gridleys on the way to the station. Barnes is going to make Prescott fight for some things he said on the field! Of course, if you fellows get generally peevish, and the whole Gridley team gets cleaned out, there won't be many tears shed."

So scores of the sort of rabble in whom such an appeal finds ready response hung about, eager to see what would turn up.

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