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All characters are at least 18 years old.
A special Thank you to my proofreader who is helping make me look less dumb. Any errors are my own. Also warning: there is a lot of football (American) in this chapter so skip ahead if you don’t want to slog through it. Thanks for reading, commenting and voting!
“Are you sure that you want to do this Jessica,” Shelly asks as she waits outside Jessica’s bathroom stall.
“I kind of promised,” Jessica answers.
“Yeah but it doesn’t have to be done like this does it?”
“You don’t think he’ll get mad at me if I do this do you?” Jessica asks.
“I don’t think he’s capable of being mad at you.” Shelly answers with a laugh.
“Good to know,” Jessica laughs as she emerges from the stall. She gives herself a quick once over in the mirror then nods at Shelly. “Okay, let’s do this.”
Shelly shakes her head but follows Jessica out into the hallway. “Does he have any idea that this is about to happen?”
“I can keep a secret, sometimes,” Jessica laughs. “Besides I want to see the look in his face.”
“It should be priceless,” Shelly admits.
“I knew that you’d want to see it yourself.”
“Thanks for thinking of me,” Shelly laughs.
“Now where am I going,” Jessica asks.
“Into the stadium and take a right when we get to the track. Just follow me and I’ll show you.”
“Okay Jake, I really want you to sell the hand off on the play action.” Coach Pennington tells me. “They’ll bite on it if you really get it in there.”
“Yes coach,” I answer then pull my helmet back into place.
“All right, shotgun formation, play action to the left, streak routes for the receivers on my go,” Coach Pennington says.
We’re getting into formation when someone on the defense lets out a wolf whistle.
“Neil, that’d be an unsportsmanlike flag on us in an actual game,” Coach Pennington shouts.
“Sorry coach but we’ve got a couple of spies I think.” Neil says nodding towards the infield.
Coach Pennington follows his gaze and chuckles. “Those aren’t spies Neil, just a couple of fans, right Jake?”
I turn and standing there on the infield dirt are Shelly and Jessica. My mouthpiece nearly falls from my mouth when I see them because Jessica is standing there clad in her volleyball uniform in all its burnt orange and blue glory.
She holds up her hands, cocks her head and mouths, “Well?”
I smile and with my hands make a W, then an O, another W and finally a heart causing her to smile.
“Okay, we’re taking five while Jake puts his eyes back into his head and picks his jaw off the ground,” Coach Pennington announces loud enough for Jessica and Shelly to hear.
“Sorry Mr. Pennington,” Jessica calls out while Shelly laughs.
“You should be Jessica. I almost had him understanding which way his helmet’s supposed to go. I hope you’re proud of yourself.” He tells her with a laugh.
“Everyone’s still making fun of me and I can’t even get mad because she’s standing there in that outfit.” I tell them.
Coach Pennington shakes his head. “Go thank her and get back here. We do have a game plan to work on.”
“You know coach; I’ve got a good feeling about this game. I think we might actually stand a chance.”
“You’re sure that we didn’t get you in any trouble?” Jessica asks me as she and Shelly join Ray, Staci and me at my car after practice.
“I think that’s the fifth time you’ve asked that,” Shelly laughs.
“It’s the seventh but it’s not like I’m counting,” I tell them and getting my arm slapped by Jessica for it.
“Careful there Jessica, we need that arm for tomorrow night if we want a chance to win.” Ray says.
“After that feel free to smack him around as needed,” Staci jokes.
“Thanks for that Staci,” I state rubbing my arm. “It’s not like she needs anyone’s permission.”
“Oh you think I don’t know that,” Staci asks. “I hear all about your exploits in French class.”
“Can’t stop talking about me huh Jess,” I joke.
“Reel in your ego there Jake,” Shelly tells me. “We can’t have you go out on the field with an inflated head otherwise your helmet won’t fit.”
“I’ll probably be taking a beating on the field tomorrow so if you all can leave a little bit for the defense I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.” I tell them.
“Oh poor baby,” Shelly sighs then hugs me then Staci steps over and hugs me next. They both look over at Jessica who shakes her head.
“Oh no, I’m not about to risk giving him a hug while I’m wearing this,” She states.
“That’s probably a good idea. I’m not sure I’d be able to let you go if you did.” I say only half jokingly.
“Well we can’t have that,” She states. “You need both arms for tomorrow’s game and I don’t think my folks will be okay with me out there without pads on.”
“So they are coming tomorrow,” Shelly asks.
“Yep,” Jessica nods and turns to Ray and Staci. “Wait till you guys meet my little sister. She’s a handful.”
“She’s throws an awesome tea party,” I add.
Ray laughs. “Been to a lot of those Jake?”
“Just almanbahis giriş the one but it was pretty great,” I answer.
“Just the one so far,” Jessica adds. “She’s been telling me that I need to invite you back over even when I remind her that you were just there a couple of days ago.”
“She’s a miniature version of you so she probably needs to verbally abuse me.” I joke.
Jessica swats my arm again and Ray just shakes his head. “If you can throw a pass further than ten yards tomorrow I’ll be impressed.”
“It’s not you that I have to impress Ray. If I want to get myself invited to anymore tea parties there’s a certain little girl that I need to show off for.”
The stadium is nearly full and the band can be heard when Jessica’s dad pulls into a parking space.
“Wow,” He states looking at the full parking lot. “This is an impressive turnout for a scrimmage game.”
“There was an announcement encouraging everyone to come out.” Jessica tells them as he finds a spot and parks.
“Do we have to be here long?” Sarah asks already annoyed.
“We’ll be here a little while Sarah,” Dr. Golden sighs taking her youngest by the hand.
“Sarah, I told you that you’ll get to see Roxie and Shelly. You’ll meet my friends Jody and Bobby too. Jake and our friend Ray are playing in the game and my friend Staci is a cheerleader,” Jessica points out. “I’ve told them all about you and they can’t wait to meet you.”
“Is Jake going to win,” Sarah asks.
“If you cheer for him I think he might have a chance,” Dr. Golden tells her.
Sarah nods. “I’ll cheer really loud then.”
“And I’ll make sure that I bring the Tylenol.” Mr. Golden jokes.
Jessica leads her family down the stadium steps waving to the students that call out to her.
“You certainly seem to have made a lot of friends in the short time you’ve been here,” Dr. Golden says with a bit of pride.
“You can thank this bunch for that,” Jessica says stopping where Shelly, Jody, Roxie and Bobby are all seated.
“Ah the famous lunch bunch I presume,” Mr. Golden says.
“Roxie,” Sarah yells before bouncing over and hugging her.
“There’s my little bundle of trouble,” Roxie laughs hugging her back.
“When are you coming over to color my hair?” Sarah asks.
“I’ll set something up with Jess for next week.” Roxie states and nods at Jessica. “How’s that sound?”
“Promise,” Sarah asks.
“Cross my heart,” Roxie answers actually crossing her heart with her finger.
Jessica introduces her family to Jody and Bobby since they’ve already met Shelly and Roxie.
As the family sits, Jessica turns her attention towards the field. “So where’s Jake,” She asks.
“On the visitor’s sideline,” Bobby points out.
“He’s number seventeen,” Jody adds.
“Why is he over there?” Jessica asks.
“Second team is considered the visiting team hence they’re on the visitors sideline.” Shelly explains.
“Oh, can we sit in those bleachers over there?” Jessica asks pointing towards the smaller steel bleachers across the field.
“We could I guess,” Shelly answers. “Jake’s parents are sitting over there.”
“We were looking forward to meeting them.” Mr. Golden states as he get back to his feet.
Sarah grabs Roxie’s hand and pulls her to her feet. “I guess we’re heading over there then.”
Pam Gibson notices the approaching group and smiles. “Hey gang,” She calls out when they get closer.
“Hey Aunt Pammy, Uncle Wes,” Shelly responds waving at the pair.
“Jessica, it’s a pleasure to see you again,” Pam states.
“Thank you Mrs. Gibson,” Jessica answers then introduces her parents and Sarah.
“It’s wonderful to meet you all,” Pam says then introduces Jake’s father who gives a curt nod then turns his attention back to the field where Jake is tossing the ball to Ray.
“A tight spiral Jake,” He shouts as the newcomers take their seats.
“Jessica can you take this to Jake for me,” Pam asks handing her a candy bar from her purse. “He gets anxious on game days and can’t eat until he’s suited up.” She explains.
“Yes ma’am,” Jessica answers taking the Snickers bar.
“Thank you dear,” Pam calls out as Jessica heads down the bleachers. “She is such a sweetheart.” She says to Jessica’s parents.
“She can be but she can also be a handful at times,” Valerie admits.
“Let me guess, the whole “make out spot” slip up,” Pam laughs and Valerie joins in.
“I know they’re old enough for such things but it’s still a shock to hear. I was thankful once it was explained what it was and why Jake wouldn’t’ take Jess there.” Valerie tells her.
“He does like to explore abandoned places but we’ve told him the he has to be safe about going to such places.”
“You’ve done a good job it seems,” Valerie states. “I know that they’ll go eventually but I’m glad that Jake will be safe about it.”
Pam nods, “He won’t let anything happen to Jessica, I’m sure of that.” She states looking down at where Jessica is talking to Jake.
Valerie looks down herself almanbahis güvenilirmi and smiles. “I can certainly believe that.”
I’m tossing the football to Ray when I hear my dad shouting and I shake my head.
“Is he always like that,” Ray asks as he tosses the ball back.
I nod. “Ever since I started playing,” I answer. “I think if I was actually a starter he’d have had a heart attack by now.”
Ray laughs as Coach Pennington walks up. “You loose Jake,” He asks.
“Getting there,” I answer tossing the ball back to Ray.
“Well don’t over do it. I’m counting on that arm.” He states.
I nod and catch the ball. Before I can throw it again Ray nods towards the fence.
“Autograph seeker,” He chuckles.
I look over and see Jessica who waves me over.
“Hey Jess,” I state as I reach the low fence that separates the stands from the sideline. “I see you made it.”
“Yep,” she answers nodding towards the bleachers. I follow her gaze and see her family and mine intermingled together with our friends.
“How’s that going,” I ask.
“I’m not sure,” She shrugs, “I was sent on an errand before the talking got started.”
“Let me guess, Sarah wants cotton candy,” I joke.
“Probably but no,” She answers. “Your mom sent me to give you a candy bar. You really don’t eat before a game?”
I nod. “I’ve been like this since I started playing Pop Warner. I nearly passed out during a game once because of it.”
“Try this instead,” She says pulling a protein bar from her purse. I take it and sigh.
“You’re stealing my candy now,” I jokingly ask.
“I’m holding it until later and the protein will be better for you. Think of this as a reward for later.” She tells me waving the bar before putting it into her purse.
“Are you messing with Jake’s pre-game ritual Jessica,” Ray asks as he jogs over.
“She’s stealing my candy,” I state then take a bite of the protein bar.
“He’ll play better if he knows there’s a reward at the end. There have been studies,” Jessica tells us.
Ray looks across the field at where Staci and the rest of the cheerleaders are going through their routine. “Can’t argue with those studies Jake,” He laughs.
“Yeah that’s fair. Your reward is a cheerleader and mines a candy bar.” I joke.
“I’m sure after you win we can wrangle you up a cheerleader,” Jessica teases.
“I’m thinking a volleyball player for Jake,” Ray jokes causing Jessica to blush.
“If the autograph session is over can you guys rejoin us,” Coach Pennington asks after walking over to where we stand.
“Sure thing coach,” Ray answers.
“Thanks for the snack Jess. It’s pretty good.” I tell her as I jog over to join the rest of the team.
“You’re welcome,” Jessica calls after me then to Coach Pennington, “Sorry about that Mr. Pennington.”
He chuckles. “He’s relaxed and laughing Jessica, you did a fine job. Now go enjoy the game and we’ll try to put on a good show for you.”
“It’s all set right,” Jamie asks Patrick as their kicking team takes the field.
“All set,” Patrick answers with a smile.
“What’d you promise them?”
“That I’d talk to Yates about getting them playing time,” Patrick answers. “And before you even ask, yes they fell for it. Everyone wants to be on the winning team after all.”
“We know at least two guys that ain’t gonna get that chance.” Jamie chuckles but then a thought strikes him. “Are we sure about this? I mean it didn’t exactly go your way when I laid out Ray at practice.”
“I was tired of Staci anyway so who cares that it didn’t work then. I just need Jake out of the way, so I can get a chance with Jessica and after tonight you’ll get me that chance. Now get out there and do your thing.”
“You got it,” Jamie answers as he tugs on his helmet. Patrick watches as the defense takes the field and smiles at what’s about to happen.
“Okay Jake, you’re ready for this,” Coach Pennington says before I take the field. “Start with what we’ve practiced.”
“Got it coach,” I answer as I snap my chinstrap in place.
I jog out to the huddle and nod at the guys. “Okay Halfback Dive to the right side on two.” I repeat it then break the huddle. I walk up to the line and Ray gives me a nod before he gets into his stance.
“Blue 32… Blue 32… hut… hut,” I call out. The ball slaps into my hands, stinging them but it’s a feeling I’m used to. The crunch of pads hitting pads ring out as I drop back and turn to hand the ball off but the halfback isn’t where he’s suppose to be. My moment of confusion is quickly dashed as I’m hit from behind by a couple of defensive players. They drive me into the ground forcing my facemask to dig up some turf.
“Gonna be a long night for you,” Jamie chuckles as the referee blows the whistle. He uses my helmet to push himself off me, still laughing as he heads back to his huddle.
“Right too confusing for you,” I ask Kendall Dixon, our halfback, when we huddle up.
“Nerves,” He answers while looking at the ground.
I don’t buy what he’s selling for almanbahis yeni giriş a second but I dig the turf from my helmet and look to the sidelines to get the play. “All right, Halfback sweep right on one this time.”
We line up and when I take the snap I don’t even get the chance to see if Kendall is in the right place or wrong as I’m immediately hit and driven to the ground.
“A long, long night,” Jamie laughs as he again uses my helmet to push himself up continuing to laugh as he heads back to his huddle.
“They aren’t even trying to block him,” Ray tells me as he helps me to my feet.
“Yeah, I’m noticing that.” I answer. “Is it the whole line letting them through because it feels like it’s the whole line?”
“Jamie keeps coming in on the left side but I don’t know if it’s all of them.” He tells me.
Coach Pennington sends the play in and Ray and I join the huddle. “Halfback off tackle left on one,” I tell them.
“Coach said right,” Kendall points out.
“I know, I’m changing the play since right doesn’t seem to be working,” I answer then break the huddle.
As Ray heads to his spot I grab his shoulder pad and pull him back. “I’m going to put you into motion and then bootleg out to the right. Think you slow Jamie up a bit?” I ask.
“I knew you flipped the play for a reason and hell yes, I can slow him up. I owe him one.” He answers with a smile.
“Let’s do it then,” I answer. Ray jogs out to a wide out position and I get under center. I stomp my right foot setting Ray in motion. As he gets a few feet away I take the snap, turn to my left then roll back to the right. Jamie breaks into the backfield with ease again but he doesn’t account for Ray who plows into him at speed. I hear the crunch of the pads as I turn and sprint up field. After getting about ten yards Tank tackles me just shy of the first down marker.
“I thought you were faster Jake,” Tank chuckles as he helps me to my feet.
“If I knew it was you coming I would have been,” I tell him before heading to the sidelines.
“Do you want to explain to me what that was,” Coach Pennington asks after he sends out the punt team.
“An audible,” I answer.
“Anything I need to know about,” He asks while glancing over at the offense seated on the bench.
“I’ll handle it coach,” I answer.
He turns his attention back to the game and starts calling out his defensive schemes while I go to the offense.
“So what did Patrick offer you guys,” I ask the guys. Most of them look confused but four heads immediately look towards the ground. Two are linemen, one is Kendall and the other is speedy sophomore wide receiver from practice.
“Let me guess,” I continue, “playing time with first team?”
“He said that he could talk to Coach Yates about getting us in,” Kendall shares.
“And you believed that crap,” Ray asks joining the conversation.
“It seemed like the best option,” Adam, one of the linemen, states.
“Yates only cares about the record and he’ll put in whoever can help him get it.” I tell them. “If you really want playing time, you’ve got to show him something to earn a spot. This game is how you show him and doing Patrick’s bidding isn’t going to do anything for you.”
“Jake knows what he’s talking about, believe me. I was once in that inner circle and anything Patrick does only benefit Patrick, no one else.” Ray adds. “We’ve got a chance here to shock everyone. Coach Pennington has a great game plan and we’ve got the talent to pull it off so what do you guys say; do you want to lay down for first team or do you want to show everyone what we can really do?”
The four look at each other and each share a nod. “Let’s show them what we can do,” Kendall states.
“Yeah,” Adam agrees.
“All right then,” I nod. “When we get the ball back, we show them what we can do.”
Patrick marches his team down the field but the drive stalls out bringing up a third and goal.
“Coach, tell them to watch for him to look to dump it off to the halfback. Patrick loves that play in this situation.” I tell him.
Coach Pennington nods and sends in the play, telling his middle linebacker to cover the halfback. As predicted, Patrick throws towards his halfback who is immediately tackled for only a short gain.
Coach Yates sends in his field goal unit and they put three points on the board.
“Nice job D,” Coach Pennington tells the players as they come off the field. “And good call on that dump off Jake. Now let’s see if our offense can put something on the board.”
“We got it coach,” Kendall answers as our kick returner takes a knee in the end zone.
“All right, eighty yards to go Jake, make it happen.” Coach tells me as I head to the huddle.
“Eighty yards and I want it all on this play,” I state. “Who wants it with me?”
“Hell yeah,” Ray answers with a grin and a chorus of “yeah’s” follow his.
“All right, they’re still expecting us to roll over so we’ve got one chance to shock them,” I answer. “Shotgun formation, streak routes for the receivers, on two, let’s get it all on this play.
I call out the cadence, take the snap and drop back a step. Jamie looks confused as he’s being blocked for the first time in this game but the pocket still begins to collapse under the powerful defense. I step up in pocket and let the ball fly towards the far sideline and our speedy sophomore.
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