Dave Porter at Oak Hall/Chapter 19
A GAME OF FOOTBALL
For a week following the feast matters moved along quietly at Oak Hall. Once Dave encountered Gus Plum, and a few sharp words passed, but that was all. It was the calm before the storm.
During that week Dave did his best with his studies, resolved that good times should not interfere with his average.
"I've got to come out at the top, or pretty close to it," he told himself. "If I do not, it won't be fair to Mr. Wadsworth. He sent me here to study, not to play."
As autumn came on many of the students of the academy turned their attention to football, and several teams were organized and a number of matches were played. Roger was the captain of one of the teams and he urged Dave to take part.
"You've got to learn all about football," said the senator's son. "Even if you don't play you want to know what is being done."
"Baseball is the game I love," answered Dave. Nevertheless he took up football, and it was not long before he could play fairly well. He was a good runner, and could dodge as neatly as anybody, and these accomplishments counted for a good deal.
A few miles further up the Leming River was the town of Rockville, where was located the Rockville Military Academy, an institution not quite as large as Oak Hall. Between the two institutions there was a constant and keen rivalry, and the football season was at its height when a challenge was received from Rockville to play on a Saturday afternoon at three o'clock.
"I knew it would come," said Roger, as he read the challenge aloud. "Now, fellows, we must show them what we can do."
"Did you play them last year?" asked Dave.
"Yes, three games. They won two and we won one."
"Then their team must be better than ours was."
"We lost two players by sickness at the last moment," put in Phil. "That made us lose the third game."
The team to play the Rockville Institution was placed under Roger's control, and he picked his players with great care. Ben, he knew, was a good football player, and was made quarterback, while Phil was a halfback. Much to Dave's surprise Sam Day was put in as right tackle.
"Can Lazy fill that place?" asked Ben, in wonder.
"Certainly," answered Roger, promptly. "You have never seen him wake up. When he does, he is as spry as anybody." And so it proved.
Roger wished very much to put Dave on the team, but the latter declined.
"I couldn't do it justice, yet," said the boy from the country. "You must give me time." Yet Dave went along as a substitute.
The day for the game dawned bright and clear, and the students of Oak Hall left for Rockville directly after dinner. Some went in boats and some in the stage, and the carryall, while a few rode bicycles or walked. With them went Andrew Dale, who was almost as interested as the boys themselves.
Taken as a whole, the crowd was a happy one. The only discontented students were those who had failed to get on the team, and among these were Gus Plum, Macklin, and a red-headed lad named Puffers.
"It wasn't fair to leave us on the outside," grumbled Puffers. "Every one of us ought to be on that team."
"Oh, I didn't expect any better treatment from Roger Morr," declared the bully of the school. "He is running this to suit himself."
"I'll bet our school loses this match," put in Macklin. "And if it does, it will serve those fellows right." He was not loyal enough to wish Oak Hall success if he could have no part in the victory.
"Morr and Porter and Lawrence are trying to run everything to suit themselves," grumbled Puffers. "It's an outrage."
"They shan't run things very much longer," declared Plum. "I'll show them that we have rights which they are bound to respect."
So the talk ran on among the discontented ones until the football field at Rockville was reached. Gus Plum and his friends had come up on their wheels, which they left at the hotel shed.
"Come and have something on me," said the bully, and led the way to a back room of the hotel. Puffers was willing, and the sneak of the school did not have will power enough to resist. Drinks were ordered, and then Gus Plum passed around a package of cigarettes.
"This is something like," declared the bully, blowing some smoke towards the ceiling. "For all I care their football game can go to grass."
"I'm with you on that," answered Puffers. He had very little spending money of his own, and was quite willing to sponge on Gus Plum to the full extent of the latter's purse.
In the meantime the other students had gone to the football field. The little stand there was already half filled and they quickly crowded into the remaining seats. The Rockville boys gave them a cheer, and they cheered the rival academy in return. Flags were waving on all sides, and many of the boys were tooting loudly on the horns they had brought along.
Each football team had a uniform, and the rivals made a neat appearance when they ran out on the field, to indulge in a little practice.
"Now, fellows, do your best!" cried Dave, who was waving a small flag.
Soon the practicing came to a finish and the game proper began. It was Rockville's kick-off, and they sent the ball thirty-five yards into Oak Hall's territory in almost the time it takes to tell it.
"Hurrah! look at that!" came from the Military Academy boys. "This is our game, sure! Keep up the good work!"
"Keep cool, fellows," came quietly from Roger. "Watch 'em."
But little was said, for after the first scrimmage the ball was carried back and forth with great rapidity, so fast, in fact, that Dave could scarcely follow the various plays made. He saw Phil with the ball, then Roger, and later on saw Sam Day make a run of twenty-five yards, at which the Oak Hall crowd cheered loudly. The leather went down into the territory of Rockville six times, only to be sent back, and then it was carried almost to the Oak Hall goal line. There was a furious struggle here, and at last it was snatched up for a safety, just as one of the Rockville players tried his best to cross the line.
"Hurrah, that's better than nothing!" was the cry from the Military Academy boys. "That counts two, anyway." And then they began to cheer, blow their horns, and swing their rattles.
It had taken twenty minutes to make the safety, so fifteen minutes of the first half still remained. The ball was put into play once more without delay, and again it went up and down the field almost as rapidly as before.
"Their team is heavier than ours," said Polly Vane to Dave.
"That is true, but I think our fellows can out-run them," was the answer.
Back and forth went the leather, now for five yards, then for ten, and then for a long run by one of the Oak Hall players, which took it within fifteen yards of the opponents' goal. The Oak Hall followers cheered madly.
"Over with it! Make it a touchdown!"
"Kick it! Make it a goal!"
There was a wild scramble, and then another rush, followed by a mix-up which nobody could describe, afterward.
"A foul! A foul!" cried both sides, and it was hard to get a proper decision. But the referee, after consulting the linesman, did the best he could, which was to shift the ball five yards from where it had been before. One Rockville player had had his shoulder hurt, and two Oak Hall players went limping from the field with sprained ankles.
But five minutes more of the first half remained for playing, and as quickly as possible three substitutes came into the field, to take the places of those disabled. Of the two called for Oak Hall one was Luke Watson.
"Now, Luke, give 'em music!" cried Dave, to the boy who loved to play the banjo and guitar.
"I'll do what I can," answered Luke, and took his place on the field.
In a moment more the ball was again in play, and almost before the spectators knew what was coming, a Rockville man had it and forced it the length of the field for a touchdown.
"A touchdown! A touchdown!" was the cheer. And a yell went up, which changed to a perfect roar when a goal was kicked. Then the bell rang, bringing the first half of the game to a close.
Score, Rockville Academy 8, Oak Hall 0.
It must be confessed that the boys of Oak Hall felt much downcast, and the team had but little to say as it sped for the dressing room.
"This is the time Oak Hall gets whitewashed," said one of the Military Academy students. "They don't know how to play."
"Wait—the game isn't ended yet," answered an Oak Hall youth.
So the talk ran on, while Dave and a number of others tried to cheer the players up. In the midst of the talk Gus Plum pushed his way into the dressing room, followed by Puffers and Macklln.
"Why ain't you fellows doing something?" cried the bully. "You're putting up a regular baby game."
"I could do as well blindfolded," added Puffers.
"If I couldn't do better than that, I wouldn't accept a challenge," put in Macklin, with a sickly squint at Roger.
"I don't want any advice from you," said the senator's son, warmly. "If you want to do me a favor, please leave this dressing room."
Gus Plum and his cohorts wanted to argue the point, but nobody was in the humor for listening, and the bully and his friends were soon forced out of the place. Then the ten minutes' intermission came to an end, and the team took its place once more on the gridiron, or rather checkerboard, as it must in the future be called, since most of it is now marked off into five-yard squares instead of lines as formerly.
The ball had been in play less than two minutes when there came a bad fumble on the part of a Rockville player. It was Oak Hall's opportunity. Phil seized the ball, and like a flash made a dash of fifteen yards with it. Then came a pause, when it was passed back to Roger, who was off like the wind with it.
"Look at that run!"
"Go it, Morr, go it!"
"A touchdown! A touchdown!"
The cry was true, Roger had crossed the line, just as the left tackle of the Military Academy was doing his best to down him. How the Oak Hall lads did cheer!
"Now for a goal! Don't miss that kick."
But to kick a goal just then was not so easy. A sudden stiff breeze was blowing, and this sent the ball just to the outside of the left goal post.
"No goal to-day!" shouted a follower of the Rockville team.
"Never mind, that gives us five points anyway," answered one of the students from Oak Hall.
The score was now Rockville Academy 8, Oak Hall 5, and there remained but twelve minutes for playing. As the ball came out once more one of the substitutes came to Roger.
"Roger, I can't play any more," he said. "I've got cramps in my left side."
"Then call Dave Porter," was Roger's quick reply, and as soon as possible Dave discarded the sweater he had been wearing, came on the field, and was assigned to a position.
The players on both sides were now excited, and no sooner had the ball been put into play again than there came several fumbles. The ball went up and down, and far over to the side line. Then came a long punt by Dave. The center for Oak Hall caught it, and made twenty yards before he was brought down. The play was decidedly rough, and for just a moment there was an indication of a fight.
"Don't you try anything like that again," said Roger, to one of the Rockville players.
"Oh, that was all right," growled the fellow who had been too rough.
The play was resumed, and by really hard work Oak Hall advanced to within twenty yards of the opponents' goal line.
"That's it!" came the yell. "Carry it over."
"Kick a goal!"
"Get the ball, Rockville. Don't let them make another touchdown!"
In the midst of the clamor the linesman came forward and announced that there remained but six minutes more in which to play.
"We must win!" said Dave, to Roger. "I think we can do it, too. Those Rockville fellows look played out."
But Rockville got the ball, and the signal was
given with care. They made twelve yards, and then eight yards more, but lost the ball on a wild pass. It rolled toward Dave, and he caught it up like a flash and started to run.
"Go it, Porter, go it!" was the cry of encouragement.
"Stop him!" came the counter-cry from the Rockville rooters. "Down him, quick!"
A Rockville tackle threw himself forward. But Dave made a jump and cleared the fellow and continued on his way. Another opponent was coming up from the other side, but Phil was between, and blocked him off.
"Go it, Porter; go it, old man!"
"Keep at it! You are making the run of your life!"
Three of the Rockville team were now after him, and one at his very heels. But he was fresh, while they were fagged out, and do their best they could not catch him. Like the wind he came over the goal line.
"Whoop! hurrah!" was the wild cry, and then the horns and rattles made such a din as was never heard before. As quickly as possible a goal was kicked, and again the ball went into play. It was advanced fifteen yards into Rockville's territory when the whistle blew, and the contest came to an end.