Dave Porter and His Rivals/Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI


A STRUGGLE ON THE GRIDIRON


When Dave and his chums reached the athletic grounds they found the grandstand and the bleachers about half filled with people. The Lemington contingent had a good number of rooters, and they were already filling the air with their cries of encouragement. The boys looked around, but saw nothing of Vera Rockwell or Mary Feversham.

"Maybe they didn't think it worth while to come," suggested the senator's son.

"No Rockville fellows here, either," said Phil. "They play an eleven from Elmwood this afternoon."

The Lemington players were already on the field, and it was seen that they were rather light in weight, only the full-back being of good size.

"Our eleven has the advantage in weight," said Roger. "But I rather fancy those fellows are swift."

"Yes, and they may be tricky," added Ben.

As soon as Dave and his chums were seated, Dave gave the signal, and the Oak Hall cheer was given. Then followed another cheer for the school eleven, with a tooting of horns and a clacking of wooden rattles.

"Mercy! but those Oak Hall students can make a noise!" exclaimed one girl, sitting close by.

"That is what they call 'rooting'!" answered her friend. "Isn't it lovely!"

"Perfectly delicious! They ought to win, if they shout like that!"

Guy Frapley heard the racket, and walked over to the spot from whence it proceeded. He was astonished beyond measure to see Dave leading off, yelling at the top of his lungs, and waving a rattle in one hand and the school colors in the other.

"What do you think of that?" he asked, of Nat Poole.

"Oh, Porter and his crowd want to make out they don't feel stung over being out of it," grumbled Nat.

"But they are rooting harder than anybody."

"They'll be glad to see us lose."

"We are not going to lose."

"I didn't say we were," answered Nat, and walked away. Somehow, it made him angry to see Dave and his chums cheering, and in such an earnest manner. He would have been better satisfied had Dave acted grouchy or stayed away from the game.

The game was to be of two halves, of thirty minutes each, with ten minutes intermission. Oak Hall won the toss-up, and as there was no wind and no choice of goals, they kept the ball, and Lemington took the south end of the gridiron.

"Now, then, here is where Oak Hall wins!" cried Dave, loudly. "Do your level best, fellows!"

"Shove her over the line, first thing!" added Roger.

"Oak Hall! Oak Hall!" yelled Phil. "Now then, all together in the game!"

Under the inspiration of the cheering, Oak Hall made a fine kick-off, and by some spirited work carried the pigskin well down into the Lemington territory. But then the ball was lost by Nat Poole, and the opposing eleven brought it back to the center of the gridiron, and then rushed it up to the thirty-yard line of the school.

"That's the way to do it!" yelled a Lemington supporter. "You've got 'em going!"

"Send it back!" yelled Dave. "All together, for Oak Hall!" And this cry was taken up by a hundred throats.

Guy Frapley got the ball, a minute later, and made a really fine run around the Lemington left end. This brought the pigskin again to center, and there it remained for nearly five minutes, the downs on both sides availing little or nothing. A scrimmage followed, in which one Lemington player was injured, and he accused one of the Oak Hall fellows, a new player named Bemis, of foul play. This protest was sustained, and Bemis was retired and another new player named Cardell was substituted.

"Five minutes more!" was the cry, and again both elevens went at it. Dave suddenly saw the captain of the Lemingtons make a certain sign to some of his men.

"They are up to some trick!" he cried to his chums, and hardly had he spoken when the ball went into play, through center and across to the left end. It was picked up like a flash, passed to the quarter-back, who was on the watch for it, and carried toward the Oak Hall line with a rush.

"A touchdown for Lemington!"

"That's the way to do it!"

"Now, Higgins, make it a goal!"

Amid a wild cheering, the pigskin was brought out for the kick, and the goal was made.

"That's the way to do it!"

"Now for another touchdown!"

Again the pigskin was brought into play. But while it was still near the center of the field the whistle blew and the first half of the game came to an end.

Score: Lemington 6, Oak Hall 0.

It must be confessed that it was a sorry-looking eleven that straggled into the Oak Hall dressing-room to discuss the situation.

"You want more snap!" cried John Rand, the manager.

"They put up a trick on us!" grumbled Nat. "They got that touchdown by a fluke."

"Well, I wish we could make one in the same way," retorted Rand. Since being elected manager, he had had anything but an easy task of it to make the eleven pull together. Some of the old players wanted Dave, Roger, Phil, and the others back, and threatened to leave unless a change was made.

"This looks as if Oak Hall was out of it," whispered Phil to his chums, during the intermission.

"Oh, I don't know," returned Dave. "A touchdown and a goal isn't such a wonderful lead."

At the beginning of the second half it was seen that Guy Frapley and his fellow-players were determined to do something if they could. But they were excited and wild, and the captain could do little to hold them in. Several times they got confused on the signals, and once one of the new ends lost the ball on a fumble that looked almost childish. Inside of ten minutes, amid a mad yelling from the Lemington supporters, the ball was forced over the Oak Hall line for another touchdown, and another goal was kicked. Then, five minutes later, came a goal from the field.

"Hurrah! That's the way to do it!" yelled a Lemington supporter.

"Fifteen to nothing!" cried another. "Thought Oak Hall knew how to play football!"

"They ought to play some primary school kids!"

"You shut up!" screamed Nat Poole, in sudden rage. "We know what we are doing!"

"You ought to be an ice-man,—you're slow enough," retorted the Lemingtonite, and this brought forth a laugh, and made Nat madder than ever.

Again the ball was placed in play, and this time Oak Hall did all it could to hold its own. But it was of no avail. Lemington carried the air of victory with it, and its confidence could not be withstood. Again the ball was shoved over the line for a touchdown, and again the goal was kicked, amid a cheering that was deafening.

"It's a slaughter!" murmured Roger.

"I am afraid so," answered Dave. "Too bad! I am sorry for the school!"

"So am I," said the senator's son, and Phil and Ben nodded gravely.

The last five minutes of the game only served to "rub it in," as Shadow expressed it, for Lemington scored again, this time, however, failing to kick the goal. When the whistle blew the pigskin was on the Oak Hall twenty-five yard line.

Final score: Lemington 26, Oak Hall 0.

It is perhaps needless to state that the local supporters yelled and cheered, and blew their horns, and clacked their rattles until they were exhausted. It was a great victory, for in the past Oak Hall had been a formidable rival on the gridiron. The eleven cheered for Oak Hall, and were cheered in return; and then the visitors got out of sight as quickly as possible.

"A bitter defeat truly," said Doctor Clay, while driving back to the school. "Our boys did not seem to play together at all."

"It was very ragged work," answered Andrew Dale. "But it is no more than I expected, from what I saw in the practice games. Our eleven will be able to do but little unless it improves wonderfully."

"I believe you, Dale. Don't you—ah—think they would do better if Porter and Morr and Lawrence were in the line-up?"

"I certainly do. But they have been voted out, so I was told."

"Ahem!" Doctor Clay grew thoughtful. "What does Mr. Dodsworth think about it?" The party he mentioned was the gymnastic teacher, who took quite an interest in football, although not officially.

"He thinks Porter, Morr, Lawrence, and Plum ought to be put back on the eleven. He says it is a shame that they were put off in the first place."

"I believe our school is to play Rockville Academy next."

"Yes, and I just got a message over the telephone that Rockville won from Elmwood this afternoon, twelve to four. I know Elmwood has a strong eleven, so Rockville must be extra good this season."

"Exactly so; and that means, if our eleven is not greatly strengthened before we meet Rockville, we shall suffer another defeat," responded the master of Oak Hall, rubbing his chin reflectively.

"More than likely, sir."

"Too bad! In these days some folks think football and baseball quite as important—ahem!—as—er—some studies. It is a wrong idea, assuredly,—yet I—ahem!—I think it would be a very good thing if we could show the world that our students can play football as well as do other things."

"Football is a great thing at Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, Doctor."

"Yes, indeed! I remember well how I used to witness those stirring games, and how I would yell with the rest. Why, Dale, one year we had a quarter-back that was a corker. They couldn't stop him I He got the pigskin and skinned down the field like a blue streak, and—but, ahem! that is past history now," finished the doctor, bringing himself back to his usual dignity. "But I must look into this football matter more closely," he added with a speculative sigh.

Poole, Frapley, and their crowd had arranged for a banquet that night, and many others of Oak Hall had gathered boxes and barrels for bonfires. The banquet was a tame affair, and not a single fire was lighted.

"We are having frost early this year," said Luke, dryly.

"Yes, it came on suddenly, this afternoon," added Shadow.

"I'll wager you will hear something drop in the football team before long," went on Luke. "The school won't stand for such work as we had to-day."

"Who is to blame?"

"Rand, Frapley, Bemis, and Nat Poole."

"Then they better resign."

"Just what I say."

During the evening the talk throughout the school was largely about the game, and nearly every player was severely criticised. It was agreed that Bemis had acted in a thoroughly unsportsmanlike manner, and he was told that he would have to resign, and he agreed to do so. It was also agreed by the students generally that of the new players, Guy Frapley had done the best work.

"Give him proper support and he would be all right," said Dave. "But, in my opinion, the eleven as it now stands will never win a victory."

"And that is what I think, too," added Roger.