New Middle Grade funny … the year we never won

The Alipios circa 1980

The Craziest Ragin’ Cajun Football Play (working title)

PITCH: Twelve year-old Hatcher Hampton has big dreams about this year’s football season. But when he gets cut to the B-team––the not as athletic football kids––his hopes turn from winning to surviving a season of Ragin’ Cajun craziness.

1: The pre-season

Listen up, friends. Now that you got yourself into a cozy reading spot, here’s the rules of the game. My name is Hatch. I’m twelve years old. I live near a bayou in Louisiana in a family of three and a half … um, yeh, we’ll get back to that half later. Right now, what you’re here for is the tale of how I pulled off the craziest football play ever.

Make sure you got a snack and drink nearby.

Okay, ready?

“Red forty-four! Red forty-four!” shouted our bulky quarterback squatting under center. Lined up in the backfield directly in front of me, he tapped his right hand on the back of his leg. Twice. That meant it was a new signal. Our quarterback was totally changing the play.

SWEET!

Because with this change in the pay, it meant that I was gonna get the football.

But I’m a blocker. I never get the ball.

Down by five points, fifty yards away, and with only six seconds left on the clock for the game, my heart pounded like a jackhammer.

Cliched?

Trust me, you can’t make up stuff like this.

Lined up behind our quarterback, a guy named “The Hawg” with a neck thicker than the trunk of an oak tree, I visualized the play in my head.

“Red forty-four! Red forty-four!”

The nerves turned in my gut. Do I block right? Do I shuck and release left? O-M-G … I’m so blowing it. I nearly flinched and cost us a penalty flag.

But nerve was not in the vocabulary of our leader, the Hawg. Ice ran through his steely veins.

“Set!”

I bit down on my mouthpiece.

“HUT-HUT!”

The Hawg grabbed the football under center. He dropped back deep in the pocket. He stalled to let our receivers get down the field. And I, his lone blocker, I needed to help him find time.

I stepped in front of our quarterback. I readied to block.

“Pass!” An opposing rusher yelled.

As the last play of the game … well, what choice was there?

The defense plowed through the blockers like a bowling ball.

Moaning, football bodies flailed as defenders charged the Hawg. Someone lost a shoe. It flipped with laces in the air.

Quarterback glanced left.

Quarterback pivoted right.

No one was open.

A tank cut through the line. He had thick, black paint under his eyes.

I stepped forward and gave him a raised forearm.

He flicked me away like a toothpick.

That was special … NOT.

The Hawg scrambled to the right. He raced in the opposite direction.

One, two, three opponents were hot on his trail.

I could hardly look. I rose to my feet and watched as players moved away from me. All I could do is watch as the Hawg ran to the far sidelines.

Ten black jerseys on the other team were set to destroy the man with the ball.

I took several steps forward, hoping to get a glimpse. I was all alone.

And just then …

The Hawg turned his body, planted his feet and launched the football––a tight spiral of perfection––across the field at me. He hadn’t crossed the line of scrimmage yet. It was a legal pass play.

The opponents were stunned.

The visiting coach pulled his hair and mouthed, “NOOOO!”

The crowd, everyone was caught off guard.

It was impossible.

A kid who could stop short of his body’s movement and launch a football across his body’s direction was against Newton’s first and second laws of motion.

Totally.

But the Hawg made the impossible possible.

Alone on the left side of the gridiron (that’s football field for you non-sports people), I caught the ball and began racing to the end zone.

Forty. Thirty-five. Thirty. Twenty-five …

I heard an ESPN commentator’s voice cheer in my head, “HE … COULD … GO … ALL … THE … WAY!”

Only one black-jersey player stood in my path.

With eyes squinted, I tucked the ball tight and raised my hand for a stiff arm. As our two bodies neared, I leaped and hurdled the tackle.

Stumbling across a chalked white line, a referee raced over with his arms high.

TOUCHDOWN!

It all happened so fast.

Me, the savior of the game.

Me, standing in the end zone with the game ball in my hand.

Now, what touchdown celebration should I entertain?

The salsa? A back flop in a pool? Maybe I should do something original like paddling a “row, row, row your pirogue?”

My team circled around me.

Even the Hawg, he held up two hands for a high-ten.

“Cómo es eso posible?”

I don’t know why seventh grade Spanish teacher’s words ran through my mind. “How is this possible?” is what the phrase meant.

How is any of this possible especially for me, the scrawniest kid of kids?

Until––

Oh, yeh. I remembered this wasn’t me at all. I was on the sidelines in the bleachers with a handful of other high school parents and families. Someone cheered loud and spilled their drink on my head.

Down on the field, this was Hunter, my older brother’s life.

This was his football win.

Hunter Hampton Bio: A sixteen-year old track star who will surely land a million-dollar shoe contract and buy our Ma a house one day. If I could walk in someone else’s shoes, I’d take his size elevens any day.

His choice of touchdown dance?

Nah.

He simply gave the ball to the referee and ran to shake the other teams’ hands. It was a classy move. That’s why he’ll always be Mr. Ice Age in my world.

Not that I have a bunch of worlds going on. My life is pretty standard. I’m your average kid living in your average three-and-a-half persons household.

I’m the number three in case you were wondering.

Hatch, remember?

Now, let’s get back to reality.

(Leave a comment if you’d like to read more)

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