The Winning Touchdown/Chapter 24
There was a buzz of excitement; everyone was whispering to his neighbor, and there was even talking among the members of the faculty.
Dr. Churchill gave a few more facts concerning the matter, stating that though the first move had gone against the college, the Randall legal representatives hoped to be successful in court.
"I might add," went on the good doctor, "that we are making every effort to locate the missing quit-claim deed. And I might also add that if any of you young gentlemen happen upon it, the faculty and myself, as well as the directors, will be under great obligations to you, if you will turn it over to us.
"To that end, perhaps, I had better describe the deed," which the president did, at the same time making a few remarks concerning legal matters, and impressing on the students the necessity of taking care of legal papers.
"You will now know the document, if you should happen to see it," he concluded, "though I fear we cannot hope for that. But we will not give up yet," he added t and then the exercises came to an end.
Discussion on the new development of the trouble continued, as the students filed out of chapel, and strolled across the campus, some to lectures, some to studies, while others, who had the early periods free, made for the football field.
"It's a rotten shame, isn't it?" exclaimed Holly Cross, as he dug his toe into the pigskin with vicious force. "I wish I had some of the lawyers who are making the trouble where this ball is," and as the spheroid again sailed high into the air, Holly grinned in delight at his effort.
"Yes, it's just like Langridge to make trouble," agreed Tom. "Probably he's delighted at the turn affairs have taken, and he very likely hopes to see Randall down and out."
"Well, he won't!" declared Frank, as he passed the ball to Jerry Jackson. "I feel sure we're going to win. As sure as I feel that——"
"We'll put it all over Fairview," finished Billy Housenlager. "We've just got to do 'em!"
"Glad you feel that way," spoke Captain Woodhouse. "But with Phil laid up——"
He did not finish, but they all knew what he meant. Up to the last, there was hope that Phil might pull around in time to play at least part of the game, but the doctor soon put an end to this thought.
"It's utterly out of the question," he said, and Phil, with a groan, turned his face to the wall.
As if Randall did not have trouble enough, more developed the night before the game. There had been a final meeting of the eleven, and Phil had managed to limp to it on a crutch. Final instructions were given by the coach, some new plays were decided upon, and a particular code of signals, of which there were several in use, was adopted.
"No objections to taking a glass of ginger ale before we turn in, is there, Mr. Lighton?" asked Jerry Jackson of the coach, who was a strict trainer.
"I'll allow you one," he answered.
"Come on then, fellows, I'll stand treat. Got something extra in my allowance this month," went on the Jersey twin, and he led a crowd of his chums to a small refreshment place that did a thriving business just outside the college grounds.
Whether it was the ginger ale, or the excitement caused by anticipating the game, was not ascertained, but it was a fact that in the night Sid Henderson was taken ill. Tom heard his chum groaning, and, sitting up in bed, asked:
"What's the matter, old man?"
"I don't know, but I feel as if I was burning up inside."
Tom was at Sid's bed in a moment, and placed the back of his hand on his friend's cheek.
"Why, you've got a fever!" he exclaimed "I'm going to call for Dr. Marshall."
Wallops was sent for the physician, who pronounced Sid a very sick youth, and ordered his removal to the sick ward, a sort of emergency hospital maintained at Randall.
"I shouldn't be surprised but what it was the ginger ale," said the physician, after questioning Sid. "You have a very bad bilious attack."
"Will I—will I be all right by morning?"
"By morning? Gracious, young man, what do you think we doctors are, magicians? We have to wait for Nature to help us."
"Then I can't play."
"Play? I should say not! You've got to stay in bed."
"Well, wouldn't that get your goat!" exclaimed Tom, when he heard the news. "Phil and Sid both out of the game. Now we are up against it, for further orders."
Phil did not answer, but he gritted his teeth, and in the darkness stepped out of bed, bearing his weight on his injured ankle. He could hardly keep back an exclamation of agony, as a sharp pain shot through him, and he knew that what he had hoped for—that he might possibly play—was out of the question.
The day dawned cold and fair, ideal weather for football, with no wind to make kicking difficult. The contest was to take place at Randall, and the squad was out early at practice. It was rather a serious gridiron squad, too, for the absence of two of the best players crippled the team in a manner that none cared to think about.
"Jove, but I wish I was going to be with you!" spoke Sid softly, when Tom paid a visit to him, just before the time for calling the game.
"I wish you were," said the end. "I guess you'd better pray for us, Sid, for we sure are up against it."
Phil managed to limp out on the side lines, where he sat wrapped in a blanket like an Indian brave, and watched the preliminary practice, unable to keep back the tears that came into his eyes.
There was a big crowd present. Every stand was filled, and there were throngs about the field. George Carter was to play in Sid's place, and Art Benson would be at quarter. The rest of the team was made up substantially as the one that had played the previous games, save that Frank Simpson was slated to play one half at left guard, dividing with Sam Looper.
It was the first big game of the season, and both teams were on their mettle. In the stand given over to the cohorts of Fairview there was a big crowd, of which a goodly part were girls from the co-educational institution. Their shrill cheers, songs and cries mingled with the hoarser shouts of the Fairview lads.
"I wonder if Madge and the others are cheering against us?" asked Tom, as he passed the ball to Simpson.
"Well, you can hardly blame them for sticking up for their own college."
"No, that's so. Say, they're a lively eleven, all right, aren't they?"
"They sure are! Never mind, though, Parsons, we'll go through 'em all right."
There had been many changes in the Fairview eleven, but some of the lads who had played before were on the team. There was Lem Sellig, who played quarter, instead of in his old position of left half-back, Frank Sullivan was at right end, and Roger Barns was full-back; Ted Puder was playing left guard.
The practice was over, the toss had been made, and Randall was to kick off. Bean Perkins had led his cheerers in many songs and college yells, and the colors on his cane were frayed from much waving.
The referee's whistle blew, and Kindlings, with a final glance at his own men and those of Fairview, nodded to Holly Cross, who was to send the bail down the field.
There was a thud as the toe of the big centre met the pigskin, and away it sailed. It was caught by Ed Turton, who was playing left half-back, and he managed to get over about fifteen yards before he was caught and heavily thrown by Tom Parsons. Then came the line up, and the first scrimmage.
At the line came Fred Hanson, the right half-back, aided by his mates. Right for a space between Bert Bascome and Snail Looper he headed, and managed to get through.
"Hold 'em! Hold 'em!" begged Kindlings, desperately, but his men were shoved back, and there was a two-yard gain. It was not much, but it showed the power that was behind the Fairview plays. There was a burst of triumphant cheers from the co-educational supporters, and silence on the part of the cohorts of Randall, as they waited for the next play. It came promptly, and netted three yards. Then a run around right end tore off four yards more, and it looked as if Fairview would rush the ball for a touchdown in short order.
But, in answer to the frantic appeals from Kindlings, his players braced desperately, and held their opponents to such advantage that Fairview was forced to kick, and Randall had the ball, and a chance to show what she could do.
"Now, then, boys!" cried Benson, as he began to give the signal, "tear 'em apart!"
It was a heart-meant appeal, but something was lacking. Phil's magnetic presence was needed, and though Pete Backus, to whom the ball was passed, managed to wiggle through for a yard gain, there was noticed a great strength in the line of Fairview, against which the Randall players hurled themselves. Another try only netted two yards, and then, not wanting to give up the ball by sending it sailing into the enemy's territory, Benson signalled for a fake kick, Joe Jackson dropped back, and Holly Cross snapped the ball to George Carter, who was playing in Sid's place. Carter at once passed it to Joe, who ran with It. But, alas for the hopes of Randall! Joe dropped the pigskin, and Jake Johnson, the big centre of Fairview, who had broken through, fell on it.
There was a wild riot of yells on the part of the Fairview crowd, and groans of anguish from Randall. The Fairview players quickly lined up, and almost before Kindlings and his men had recovered from their astonishment and chagrin, Fred Hanson had broken through, and was speeding for the goal line. He got past all the tacklers, and after a sensational run, planted the ball between the posts.
"Touchdown! Touchdown!" came the fierce cries. Randall realized that she had been scored upon for the first time that season, and the fact was bitter to her.
The goal was kicked, and there were six points against our friends. It was disconcerting, but they went back into the play with such fierce energy that inside of the next ten minutes they had forced their opponents up the field to their five-yard line.
"Now, boys, give it to 'em! Don't wait until you can see the whites of their eyes, but give it to 'em!" howled Bean Perkins.
"Touchdown! Touchdown!" yelled the Randall crowd.
"Give 'em the good old song, fellows," fairly screamed Bean. "Conquer or Die," and he led the singing of "Aut Vincere, Aut Mori."
It was just the note needed to make the Randall players turn themselves into football fiends, and they ripped the Fairview line apart, and had the ball over in another minute.
"Now, kick the goal, and tie the score!" urged Bean, but it was not to be. The ball hit the post, and bounced back, and Fairview had still one point the better.
There was hard playing the rest of the half, but neither side scored."Well, what do you think about it?" asked
Kindlings, of the coach, during the rest period.
"I'm afraid to say," was the answer. "We'll have to do better, or——"
"Lose," spoke the captain, grimly.
The story of the second half of the game is shameful history to Randall. It started off fairly well, but there was fumbling, and even the presence of the big Californian, who replaced the Snail, could not avert the defeat that was in store.
Try as Randall did, she could not make the necessary gains, and the players hurled themselves against the stone wall defense of Fairview. On the other hand, the Fairview players found several holes in their opponents' line, through which they made substantial advances with the ball.
"Hold 'em! Hold 'em!" begged Kindlings, desperately, the fear of defeat staring him in the face. His men worked like the ancient trojans, and Tom Parsons covered himself with glory twice; once when he made a sensational tackle, and saved a touchdown that seemed imminent, and again when he made a brilliant run of sixty yards, and would have scored, but for an unfortunate slip that enabled George Curtis, the Fairview left end, to nab him.
That was as near as Randall came to scoring in the second half, while Fairview made three more touchdowns, though only one resulted in a goal. The score stood twenty-two to five against Randall when she was awarded the ball for interference and offside play on the part of her eager rival, who wanted to roll up a bigger total. There was only a little time left to play, and Kindlings desperately called upon his men in every way he knew how to rally and score again.
There were desperate—aye, even tear-stained faces—among the Randall players as they lined up. Hearts were beating as though they would burst. Lungs were panting, and tired muscles fairly begged for relief. There came a great heave as the big Californian tore a hole in the Fairview line to let Pete Backus through, but Pete was almost downed in his tracks, and ere the line could be formed again, the whistle blew, and the game was over.
For a moment the struggling players could scarcely realize it, and then, as the truth broke over the Randall lads, and they heard the shouting of the great crowd—as they knew the score twenty-two to five—they filed silently from the gridiron.
It is not writing of anything disgraceful against old Randall when I say that more than one player shed tears—bitter tears. And they were not assuaged by the hearty cheer which Fairview gave her rival.
"Now—boys, three—three cheers for Fairview!" called Kindlings brokenly, in return, and his voice was not the only one that faltered when the tiger was given.
Silently the Randall crowd left the grandstands, while the victorious cohorts of Fairview were singing their songs.
"Boys!" cried Bean Perkins, eagerly, "don't let our fellows go off that way. Give 'em the 'Conquer or Die' song, but—sing it softly!"
And then, out over the big field, welled the beautiful strains of the Latin hymn. The effect was wonderful, for the boys were good singers. The great crowd halted and listened, as the last chords died softly away.
Then came a great cheer—a cheer from friend and opponent alike—a cheer for defeated Randall—for Randall that had not conquered, but had been conquered. Then the players filed to their dressing rooms.