Coach Blitz paced the locker room in his cleats at halftime. Clickety-clack, Clickety-clack. I noticed the twitch had returned to his left eye.
“Five mistakes!” he kept repeating. “Not that bad, but five touchdowns make a very big deficit especially since we have no offense to speak of and far too many injuries.
We listened quietly. We were quite mature for a high school football team. We recognized our incompetence and learned to live and lose with it. The school had two dozen empty football uniforms, so we volunteered to wear them. We worked hard to get in shape and learn the plays but we never promised a winning season – or even a winning.
I felt no responsibility for the 35-0 halftime score that day, not having been a participant. I had a comfortable bench seat with a good view of the action and within earshot of Coach Blitz’s profane exclamations. That was going to change, I realized when I remembered the coach saying “far too many injuries” and caught a glimpse of Billy McGinty, our waterboy, suiting up. And now the coach was approaching me.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to put you in,” he said. “What’s your name again, kid?”
“I forget, Coach. I’m very nervous. Just call me Kid.”
When the whistle blew for our kickoff to the oversized Jugville Juggernauts, nervous energy sent me racing down the field where I quickly toppled two men, the head linesman and the referee. “Son,” the ref said as he rose, “Your facemask goes in front.”
Anyway, I was defensively effective on the Juggernauts’ first running play. I stopped two of their blocking backs in their tracks. I really scared them. They were afraid they had killed me.
As a defensive linebacker with ten teammates between me and our burly opponents I felt reasonably safe, but right after the ball was snapped the entire team stampeeded over me.
I decided a better strategy would be to float with the play and not be one of the collaterally damaged. This worked well until the coach sent McGinty in with a message. “Coach Blitz said to stop running in among the cheerleaders. You might knock one of them down.”
As a blocking back I was supposed to give our battered quarterback an added half second after our line collapsed. Just throwing my body at the charging linemen proved ineffective and painful. Psychology worked a little better against well-disciplined high School boys. As the howling juggernauts crashed through, I shouted, “Juniors to the left, seniors to the right. Now keep in line and no talking!” I managed to sound like an angry high school principal.
Our offense began to gain some yardage toward the end of the fourth quarter. By then we were playing against the Juggernauts’ fifth-stringers. I was quite sure their left tackle was a large girl.
Finally, the gun went off to end the debacle and we survivors watched as the jubilant Juggernauts fans carried their victorious coach off the field. There was also an attempt to carry Coach Blitz off the field, but effective police action prevented that.