Dave Porter and His Rivals/Chapter 20



"Dave, I think I see a chance of catching Rockville napping," said Roger, just before the practice began.

"You mean, if they try to take advantage of our signals?"

"Yes. If they feel sure we are going to do one thing and we do another, they'll get left."

"Well, they'll deserve to get left—if they try to profit by any such work."

"Maybe the eleven won't stand for it."

"Oh, I don't know. Rockville is hungry for a victory over us, and they may think all is fair in love and war and football," broke in Phil.

As each eleven came on the gridiron it was roundly cheered. The Rockville supporters at once commenced their well-known slogan:

You'll get your fill
Of Rockville!"

And immediately Oak Hall replied with its own well-known cry:

Oak Hall
Has the call!
Biff! Boom! Bang! Whoop!"

And then from both sides arose a great din of horns and rattles. In the rear of the field were several automobiles and they, too, let off their horns and screech whistles, adding to the noise.

The practice at an end, the toss-up followed, and this was won by Rockville, and they elected to take the ball. Out on the gridiron spread the two elevens, each player eager to do his best. Then the whistle blew, there came a kicking of the pigskin, and the great game was on.

The play was fast and furious from the start, and in a very few minutes Dave and his chums understood that to gain a victory was going to be no easy thing. Rockville had the advantage in weight, and long practice had put every man in the pink of condition.

But the trick that Nat Poole had tried to play bore unexpected results. The kick-off was a good one, but the pigskin was caught by Phil and he brought it back almost to the center of the gridiron, being aided by clever interference on the part of Roger and Plum. Then the signal was given to carry the ball through the center. The Rockville players thought it was a signal to run around the left end, and moved accordingly. Up the field came the pigskin, and before Rockville could recover from the error made, Plum had the ball within four yards of the goal line. Here, however, he was downed so heavily that the wind was knocked completely out of him.

"That's the way to do it! Hurrah for Oak Hall!"

"Now, shove it over, fellows!"

"They didn't follow their signals at all!" whispered one player to the Rockville captain.

"I know it," was the low answer. "Don't depend on the signals after this."

But the damage had been done, and two minutes later Oak Hall obtained a touchdown, Roger carrying the ball over the line. Dave made the kick, and the pigskin sailed neatly between the posts. Then what a cheering went up, and what a noise from the horns and rattles!

"That's the way to do it!"

"First blood for Oak Hall! Now keep up the good work!"

As quickly as possible the ball was brought once more into play, and now the contest waged fast and furious. Back and forth went the pigskin, first in the possession of one eleven, and then in the possession of the other. There was a fine run around the right end by Roger, and another by a player for Rockville. Then came a mix-up, and each side had to retire a player, while Rockville was penalized several yards for an offside play.

"Five minutes more!" came the warning, and then in a fury Rockville tried to form a flying wedge—such a move being permissible that year. The shock was terrific, and in spite of all their efforts to stand firm, Oak Hall broke, and the pigskin was carried over the line. Then the goal was kicked—and the whistle blew, and the first half of the great game came to an end.

Score: Oak Hall 6, Rockville 6.

Panting for breath, for that last shock had been a telling one, the Oak Hall players filed into the dressing-room, there to rest and to receive such attention as they needed.

"Well, it is still our game as much as theirs," said Dave, trying to cheer up his men. "But we want to go at 'em hammer and tongs in the second half."

"Try that right-end trick as early as possible," advised Mr. Dodsworth. "I don't think they'll be looking for it. That mix-up on signals bothered them some."

"Did Mr. Dale see Poole?" asked Roger.

"Yes, and Poole was sent back to the school in care of one of the carriage drivers," answered the gymnastic instructor.

Down in the grandstand the supporters of Rockville and of Oak Hall were having lively discussions over the merits of the two elevens. Among the Rockville students were Jasniff, Merwell, and Frapley.

"I hope we wax 'em in the second half!" said Merwell to Jasniff.

"How much money did you put up, Link?" asked Jasniff.

"All I could scrape up—thirty-five dollars."

"And I put up forty dollars."

"With the Oak Hall fellows?"

"No, with some sports from the town."

"Just what I did. Of course, I hope we don't lose! If we do I'll be in a hole until my next remittance comes."

"Oh, Rockville has got to win!" said Jasniff, loudly. "We can't help but do it."

"This is Oak Hall's game!" cried a voice from the other end of the grandstand, and then a cheer went up, followed by another cheer from the local supporters.

"Say, when do we get back at Dave Porter?" asked Merwell, while the cheering was going on. "I'm getting tired of waiting."

"We'll get back at him very soon now," answered Jasniff. "If what Doctor Montgomery tells me is true, everything will be ready about Thanksgiving time."

"Can you depend on the doctor?"

"I think so. He is almost down and out, and will do anything for money," answered Nick Jasniff, and then the talk came to an end, as the second half of the game began.

Both elevens had been urged to do their best, and the play was as spirited as before. Rockville was unusually aggressive, and one of the players tackled Phil unfairly, giving his shoulder a severe wrench. A protest was at once made by both Phil and Dave, and amid a general wrangle the Rockville man was retired.

"Never mind, they are going to put Ross in!" was the cry. "He'll show 'em what he can do!" Ross had been a favorite player in years gone by, but had not been allowed to play before because he was behind in his studies. Now, however, it was seen that he was sorely needed, and the Rockville faculty gave the desired permission to fill the vacancy.

Ten minutes of play found the pigskin near the center of the field. Then, for the first time, Dave saw a chance to use the right-end trick which Mr. Dodsworth had suggested, and gave the necessary signal. At once the entire eleven was on the alert.

The trick consisted in sending the ball over to the right, back to center, and then to the right again, some players meanwhile rushing to the left as a blind. The movements were made with rapidity, and Rockville was caught napping. Up came the pigskin in Plum's arms, and he turned it over to another player, who in turn passed it to Dave. Then Dave saw a clear space and dove for it. He was followed and tackled, but shook himself loose, and dropped on the ball directly over the goal line.

A roar went up.

"Another touchdown for Oak Hall!"

"Now for another goal!"

Amid a wild cheering the try for goal was made. But a keen wind had sprung up, and the goal was missed by a few inches.

"Never mind, that makes the score eleven to six in Oak Hall's favor."

Once again the ball was brought into play. There were but seven minutes of time left, and Rockville played like demons, hurling themselves again and again at their opponents. But Dave felt that enough had been accomplished, and gave the signal to be on the defensive, and thus Rockville was held back, and the most it could do was to get the ball on Oak Hall's thirty-five yard line. And then the fateful whistle sounded, and the great game came to a close.

Final score: Oak Hall 11, Rockville Academy 6.

It was a well-earned victory, and the Oak Hall eleven were warmly praised by their friends and the public in general, while many condemned the military academy for the roughness shown.

"Oh, it was too lovely for anything!" said Vera Rockwell, when Phil and Roger sauntered up, waiting for the carryall to take the eleven back to Oak Hall.

"It was indeed!" added Mary Feversham. "We compliment you, and we compliment Mr. Porter, too," she added, her eyes beaming brightly.

"A well-fought game," was Mr. Rockwell's comment; and then the boys passed on, to join their fellows.

Of course the majority of the Rockville supporters felt blue over the outcome of the game, and they lost no time in leaving the grandstand and disappearing from view. Jasniff and Merwell went also, but in another direction.

"This leaves me high and dry," growled Merwell. "I won't have a cent to spend for two weeks."

"Let us see if we can't borrow some money," suggested Jasniff.

"I'd like to know who from? All the fellows who bet have lost their money."

"Then we'll have to hit somebody who didn't bet—some of the goody-goody fellows," and he laughed bitterly.

"Like Porter, eh?"

"Yes, Porter never bets, nor drinks, nor smokes. I can't understand how he makes himself popular, can you?"

"It's his smooth way. But some day he'll be found out and dropped," answered Merwell.

"He'll be dropped when we work our little game against him," returned Jasniff, with an evil look in his eyes.

Never had the carryall contained a happier crowd of students than those who rode back to Oak Hall after the game. They sang, cheered, and whistled to their hearts' content, and nearly drove Horsehair wild with their antics, climbing out of the windows and over the roof of the turnout.

"Bless my heart, but you must be careful!" pleaded the driver. "I don't want to hurt nobuddy on this trip!"

"Oh, Horsehair, we can't hold ourselves down!" answered Phil. "Such a victory isn't gained every day."

"Yes, sir, I know, sir. But them hosses don't know nothin' about football, an' fust thing you know they'll run away," pleaded the carryall driver.

"We'll take a chance," put in Roger, brightly. "Now, then, all together!" And out on the air rolled the old school song to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, and then followed a cheering that could be heard for half a mile.

"Bonfires to-night!" announced Buster Beggs. "The biggest yet."

"Say, that puts me in mind of a story——" began Shadow, but what he wanted to tell was lost in a tooting of horns and a clacking of rattles that lasted until Oak Hall was reached.