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   Chapter 15 GRIDLEY FACES DISASTER

The High School Freshmen; or, Dick & Co.'s First Year Pranks and Sports By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 9190

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"We'll kick from the north end," announced Captain Badger, promptly.

With a grunt of satisfaction, Gridley loped off for its positions.

The band broke loose in a wild hurrah of a tune. Spectators belonging to both sides took up a wild cheer until the referee raised his right hand for silence. The opposing teams were lined up.

Darting forward to center field the referee placed the ball, then ran backwards off the gridiron.

His whistle went to his lips. It was an instant of strained attention.

Trill-ll! It was not a cheer, but a subdued, breathless gasp that rose from the two camps of fans as the opposing lines rushed at each other. Dick could not help a slight groan, for Adams, of Cobber, reached the pigskin first. But Adams kicked it off over the line. Here was Gridley's prompt chance.

Evans kicked the ball from the twenty-five-yard line. It was stopped by Huddleston, who started to run with it. Luckless plan! Gridley's line came thundering down upon him almost ere Huddleston had stepped off! Bump! The combatants piled into and over each other. Huddleston was downed on his fifty-yard line. At this instant Dick bethought himself. Placing his mouth to the megaphone, he roared:

"H.S. cheer!"

It rolled out with full volume while the referee was placing the ball. By the time it died out Cobber's captain could be heard calling:

"Four--nine--thirty-three--eight!"

Trill-ll!

Here, the heavier boys from Cobber began to do their fine work, and Gridley hearts sank.

Cobber made a first down on three plays. It ended in a bad fumble, however, for steady Thompson went down over the ball on the Gridley forty-five-yard line.

"H.S. cheer once more!" bellowed Dick.

The High School boys and girls answered with a will, drawing it out so long as to cause the referee to frown. When it ended Badger's signals ripped out fast and clear.

The ball came back to Quarter-back Winters. He started Gridley faces to glowing again, for Winters did one of the things that had made the team famous. This was the Gridley fake kick. With any lesser team it would have been good for twenty-five yards. Even against the big, alert fellows from Cobber that fake kick was good for eight yards. But not yet did the full effect of the move come. For Cobber was off-side and Trent burst through the line on a spurt that was good for thirty-three yards.

Two snappy line plays followed that made the Cobber boys feel the cold sweat ooze. It would have been Gridley's first down, but a little slip penalized the home players for fifteen yards.

Most of the people of Gridley back in the seats wore now standing up in their excitement. They had dreaded much from the bigger college boys, but now the spectators saw that Gridley could hold its own for strategy, ruse and speed.

Cobber lost its temper just a bit, now, before the smiling faces of these High School boys. Some rough playing followed, but the home boys kept their tempers.

Soon Ben Badger signaled another fake kick formation. That was Gridley's specialty for this game, one long planned and worked for. Quarter-back Winters again got the ball. With a handsome forward pass he made it Thompson's, and it went to the enemy's seven-yard line.

"Question--four!" appealed Cheer-Master Prescott, through the megaphone.

Back from twenty boys on the home stand came the heavy query:

"Where's Cobber? Where's Cobber?"

From all the rest of the H.S. fans came the roaring answer:

"Lost! Suitable reward and no questions asked!"

Then the Cobber fans hurled back this hint:

"Brag's a great dog,

Brag's a smart dog,

Brag's a good dog, but---

Look out for the cat!"

Cobber now developed their own famous bulldog tactics. From the seven-yard line Gridley moved the ball less than two yards in three plays. Cobber got the ball, and then other things began to happen. Cobber's big fellows worried the ball back for eleven yards. Then the visitors, who carried thirty per cent. more weight, began with heavy mass plays. Gridley began to go down, to double up and collapse before that heavy, rough play, in which fatigue, not speed was the object of the opponents.

It was not scientific play, but it was grueling on the High School boys. Even confident Dick Prescott's heart began to sink. Coach Morton was breathing hard.

Unless Gridley could hold the enemy's rush back effectively enough to get the ball once more on downs, the college boys seemed likely to rush it right over the High School goal line.

Had Cobber tried any kicks, Gridley would have had the ball, and

would have known what to do with it. But Captain Halsey knew that. He depended, now, wholly on heavy mass rushes and plays.

Yet the Gridley boys were by no means asleep--or lazy.

"I won't tire our men all out in the first half," muttered Badger to himself. "But I won't let them stroll through our line."

Even the heavy Cobber men, though they advanced doggedly, did not make any too great progress.

Down at the Gridley fifteen-yard line the High School boys developed their greatest stubbornness and strength. So well did they oppose the college boys that, by preventing progress in three successive plays, the home boys again got the ball. They could not move it sufficiently far forward, however. Cobber took the ball again.

"Better let up on the cheers, don't you think, sir?" Dick inquired.

"Yes," nodded Coach Morton. "It would only worry our boys now, and they've got enough on their minds as it is."

Again Cobber took the offensive. At the next down a man had to be sent from the field, and a substitute sent out. But the casualty went to Cobber, not to the High School team. That fact gave the major part of the audience grim satisfaction.

"There they go, now!" muttered Dave Darrin, in disgust. "Nothing is going to stop the big fellows!"

"They're getting nearer our goal line," Dick admitted. "But a game is never won until it's finished. Cobber, as yet, hasn't even gotten the touchdown!"

A minute later Cobber had. To the Gridley onlookers it sent a shock of dismay. The college men certainly had scored.

"It's Cobber's beef, not science," Dick stoutly asserted. "Our fellows play with more speed and real skill. Say--look at that!"

For Bentley, of the college eleven, had just missed the kick from field.

Five points for the visitors! The teams swiftly changed ends and lined up. The whistle's call sent them off to the fray, for there were but three minutes left of the first half.

Cobber won the kick but didn't carry it far. Gridley got down as far as the enemy's twenty-yard line. Then the smaller High School boys were fairly pushed back into their own territory, losing twelve yards of their own side of the field.

Trill-ll! The first half was over.

"Sam, can you do better? Do you want to go back on the job?" asked Ben Badger.

"No," replied the Gridley captain. "It's been tough on us, but you've done everything that I could have done. I'm satisfied, and I believe the coach is."

"We'll ask him," proposed Badger.

Morton was hurrying toward his boys. The coach's face was impassive. For all his looks showed he might have been congratulating himself on a winning.

"No; there's no need to change captains," decided the coach. "It's like changing a horse in mid-stream. I don't see, Badger, that you're lost any tricks that Edgeworth could have made.

"What's our weak point?" asked Ben.

"There isn't much of a weak point, anywhere, as far as your play goes," Mr. Morton responded. "In many respects your play has been better than Cobber's. Weight is your poor point."

Nevertheless the coach made several suggestions in the time that was allowed him.

"Whenever you get a proper chance, Captain, and have the ball, open up the play as much as you can. Don't give Cobber a chance to bump you any when it can be avoided."

In the meantime the Cobber fans, as was their right, were hurling the most abusive cheers and taunts. Dick, as cheer-master, allowed this to pass until nearly the end of the intermission. At last he gave the sudden call through the megaphone:

"Twenty-three!"

The number sounded ominous; so did the cheer that was designated by it. The Gridley H.S. boys on the grand stand responded hardly more than half-heartedly:

_"Com-pan-nee served first!

That's our steady rule!

Manners the best are taught

In Gridley school!

"But he who waits laughs best!

'Tis but a distance short

'Twixt laugh and weep--

Your joy'll be short!"_

"H.S. cheer!" exhorted Prescott, at once.

It came, with a more thundering volley. Yet Gridley folks stirred uneasily.

"That's what comes of putting a freshman, without judgment, on the calling job," muttered Fred Ripley sarcastically.

The whistle blew. Cobber got the ball, and kept it moving. Once there was a brief setback when Gridley got the pigskin and sought to push it back. After four yards, however, Cobber took it and moved down the field with it.

It seemed impossible to offer effective resistance to the heavy college men now.

Gridley hearts sank from sheer weight. Gridley had met more than its match!

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