The Short History of an Oregon Seventh Grade Football Season (Part 5)
It rained all night and all morning before the game. The field was a soggy and muddy mess. One of the end zones was a lake. In other words, November football in Western Oregon and the kids were all right and salivating at the prospect of playing in a swamp.
A sizable crowd turned up and got soaked watching a defensive struggle. Both teams were covered in mud and exhausted after pounding the ground game at each other. No offense had attempted a pass. Each team had fumbled a dozen times. It was like the Three Stooges playing the Marx Brothers.
Gardiner led 6-0 with time running out in the fourth quarter. Ogden had the ball first and goal on Gardiner’s three-yard line. A touchdown tied the game; the two point-conversion would win it.
Garbonski had tried to ram it up the gut three times in a row and Gardiner stuffed him every time. The Son called a timeout. It was fourth and goal from the one with five seconds left. The Father came over to the Son and whispered Statue of Liberty.
The Son smiled. Why not? The Raiders would remember that unconventional play call the rest of their lives. It might even serve some of them as a useful metaphor in clutch situations during adulthood.
Eubanks ran in the play. He fell down on the way and on the way back.
The gadget play worked to perfection. The score was 6-6 with no time remaining. Only one more play—the two point conversion.
The Son sprinted out to the offense. They were huddled up. He told Eubanks to accompany him. On the way, Eubanks fell down.
One play. Run to daylight, hit paydirt, win the game, and record a 4-2 season. If not for those damn elk, the Raiders might have gone undefeated!
This was it. The last time the team would battle together. There was a lot on the line,
“Okay, the Son said, “We’re running tailback dive at one. Whiskey you’re out. T Squared, you’re carrying the ball.”
Tailback dive at 1 was a basic running play where a tailback line up in an eye formation, takes the hand-off from the quarterback, and follows the fullback into the hole between the center and right guard. Thus, Garbonski would lead the way into the melee with Eubanks right behind him.
The coach looked at his players. They looked at him. Eubanks looked at the ground. The players got it. Garbonski gave a thumbs up.
“Coach,” said Eubanks, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Why not?” said the Son.
“I want to win.”
“So do I. So does the team.”
“Coach, let Whiskey take it.”
“Goddammit T Squared!” yelled Garbonski, “You’re taking the hand-off and following me into the hole. I’m going to blow up anyone in the way.”
“Okay,” said Eubanks.
It would be the first time Eubanks toted the football during a game.
They put their hands together, counted to three, and bellowed Raiders! Whiskey and the Son ran off the field.
Rain had stopped falling. Some patches of blue sky appeared. A few deer emerged from the woods. A bald eagle landed on the left upright of the goal post. It was all like something the Gods of Football ordained and somewhere Jim Thorpe and Red Grange approved.
The quarterback barked the signals. The center hiked the ball. Garbonski rocketed into the hole, Eubanks took the hand-off from the quarterback with textbook form. The fullback obliterated two defensive lineman then flattened a linebacker. The hole was as wide and deep as Crater Lake. Eubanks could tiptoe into the end zone.
He fell down inches from the goal line.
The game ended in a 6-6 tie and the Raiders finished with a 3-2-1 mark. A winning season.
The Son had arranged for a surprise pizza delivery after the game. Ten pepperoni pies to the field! He saw a kid carrying them to the field and waved him toward the goal line. The Son sprinted onto the field and toward the offense. The Father followed and so did the rest of the team. Everyone was screaming.
They gathered in a circle at the goal line and took a knee. They tore into the pizza. They ate quietly for a a few minutes and then the Son said, “Okay, enough of this. It’s time for a pit drill in the end zone. RIGHT NOW! Who’s up for that?”
Eubanks shot up his hand. It was holding a slice of pizza. The team jumped to its feet, ripped on their helmets, fastened their chinstraps, and splashed into the lake. It was on.
The Son tossed Eubanks the ball and called out Garbonski as blocker. He called out two more players as tacklers. He blew the whistle. The tacklers crashed into Garbonski. Eubanks shimmied side to side. He saw a sliver of a way to avoid getting crunched.
And then he fell down.
Decades later, Oregon City School District renamed Ogden Junior High Tumwata Middle School. Tumwater was the the tribal word for nearby Willamette Falls, a sacred place where Indian trade and salmon fishing went on for ten thousand years until Pioneers destroyed everything within two decades of settlement by all the usual suspects of destroying indigenous people and their traditions in North America. The district also changed the school’s mascot to otters (voted on by students). The colors were changed to red and black. Soccer became the most popular sport.
That was progress in Oregon.