Drake woke up Monday morning and sat up in bed. Today was the one year anniversary of his aunt Susan’s death. He looked at the nightstand to look at a picture of her. Drake never knew how much he missed her till right at that moment. He reached over and grabbed the picture, staring at it. He felt Katrina stirring next to him. He felt her arms around him and her mouth next to his ear. ” Hey,” she murmured. ” Hey,” Drake said, putting the picture back. ” She’s watching, you know. And I’m sure she’s very proud of you. Not just because of how good at football you are but because you told your family all the ways they can go screw themselves.” Drake chuckled and kissed her forehead, ” thanks. You were her favorite person you know. She adored you. I remember when you started coming around, she told me that I better find a way to get you to like me cause I’ll never find a girl like you again.” Katrina chuckled ” well, add that to the list of things she was right about.”
Drake was in his Study Hall hour later that day when an aging man in a brown suit walked up to him. ” Drake?” Drake looked up and smiled at Mike Hunt, the head of the Booster Club ” oh Mr. Hunt. How are you?” Drake asked, standing up to shake his hand. ” Good son, how are you?” ” I’m doing well,” Drake said. ” How are you feeling about Friday night? The Norton Falcon defense is no joke son; they led the league in sacks and interceptions.” ” I know sir. I’ve been watching the game tape, and I feel like I can handle them.” ” You think you can lead this team to another State Championship?” ” Yes sir, I feel like with everything that’s happened. I owe it to the team and our community.” ” You’re a good man Drake Solace,” Mike said smiling. ” Anyway, did you have a minute so we can talk?” ” Oh um yes sir, I don’t have anything to do so sure I can talk.” ” Good, let’s go to the library.”
Drake and Mike sat down at a table in the library. ” Drake, I’m here on behalf of the boosters, and before I begin, we would like to express how blessed we are to have you as part of our team and our school. Easthaven’s loss is truly our gain.” ” Thank you, sir, I appreciate that,” Drake said. ” It’s no problem. Anyway, I know your aunt died a year ago, and she was a big fan of the Panthers. She was an avid supporter of this team, and we never got to express our gratitude. So we would like to dedicate this upcoming Playoff game to her memory. However, we would like to ask you how you feel about that.” Drake raised an eyebrow and leaned back in his seat, ” Wow. I mean, Susan would have loved that. Sure, I’ll agree to that.” Mike grinned, ” I appreciate that. I’ll call you with all the details.”
On Tuesday, Drake had just finished practice and was heading off the field when he was met by the reporter Cindy. ” hey Drake, can I ask a few questions?” ” Sure,” Drake said with a friendly smile. He wasn’t a fan of most reporters, but Cindy had always been friendly towards him and always reported the truth. ” Big game coming up. Quarter-finals against the fiercest defense in the state of Texas and now the game is being dedicated to the memory of your dead aunt. How do you feel about that?” ” I’m honored that the boosters are dedicating this game to Susan. She would have loved it; She’s supported this team for her whole life as far as I know. She would be, and since she took me in when no one else would, it feels good being able to repay her even in death.” ” Are you feeling any extra pressure?” ” Of course, that comes with the territory, but I don’t crumble under pressure, I excel under pressure, and I produce results. But of course, this isn’t all about me. I have the honor of playing with the greatest guys in the world. They are my brothers, and I love them. We’ll be fine.” ” Alright Drake, good luck Friday night.” ” Thanks, Cindy.”
Drake was wandering the school parking lot, impressed with everything the Boosters had set up. There was a stage with a podium, street vendors selling food, and with a massive screen that played a memorial video celebrating Susan’s life. The school band played the school fight song, and Drake stepped on the stage. He checked the microphone and was joined by Katrina by Katrina, the dogs, and the cat. Drake waited for everyone to quiet down before starting to speak, ” Before I start, I have a few friends who want to say a few words.” Oreo wiggled out of Katrina’s arms and walked to the microphone, meowing and batting at it. Drake laughed and picked the cat up ” thank you Oreo. Now let’s hear from a few more.” Drake held the microphone to the dogs who started barking, clearly loving the attention. Drake laughed as Oreo reached over and batted their snouts which resulted in them crying to Katrina.
" Anyway, I would like to thank everyone for showing up. We are here to remember the wonderful woman known as Susan McCormick. She was a patient, smart, and generous woman. Most of you know this, but for those of you that don’t, Susan took me in when I was disowned, when I was convicted of breaking and entering. She uh, she” Drake took a moment to pause ” sorry guys, I’m not good at this kind of thing. She never got her due. My stepdad forgot about her as soon as possible. Her male nurse was good for nothing. But despite the fact she had every reason to be angry at the world, she wasn’t. She was kind, and welcoming and...” Katrina gripped his shoulder. Drake gave her a grateful smile and continued ” Susan was a woman amongst woman, and I am grateful for everything she did for me. I know she’s watching and Susan, I promise you, this Friday night, we will win for you.”
Friday morning, Drake got up at six, showered and put on his most elegant clothes. He wrote a note to Katrina explaining where he was going and driving off to the cemetery. Drake walked to a specific headstone and looked at it. ” In loving memory of Susan McCormick. 1980- 2018.” Drake took a minute before speaking, ” hey Susan. It’s me, Drake. I know I haven’t been around lately and I apologize. I’ve just been busy. I got recruited by a good school. I’m getting a full ride. And we’ve got a good shot at winning a second State Championship. I’m sorry I never got to say goodbye, but I want to let you know...that I miss you so much.” A few tears escaped Drake’s eyes. He fought to keep his composure and felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned his head to see King standing behind him, ” she understands brother. And she’s going to be there tonight watching you.” ” What are you doing here?” ” Just visiting dad. I do it before every game.” Drake took a minute to look around the cemetery before looking at his friend, ” we’ll win for them tonight.”
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to tonight’s Quarter-final game between the Norton Falcons and the Easthaven Correctional Panthers in a game where we honor the memory of our very own Quarterback’s aunt and lifelong Panther fan Susan McCormick. Introducing first, the Norton Falcons." Their fans cheered but in comparison to the Panther fans, they were like gnats in the air. ” And now introducing the reigning, defending Texas Triple-A State Champions of the woooorrrrllldddd, the Easthaven Correctional Panthers!” The fans held up a banner that read ” RIP Susan.” The captains met for the coin toss, the Panthers won and elected to receive. The Falcons kicked off which the Panthers returned to the twenty-three. ” I-Right 24 Switchblade,” Coach Bud said. Drake nodded and ran to the huddle ” alright boys, we’ve got I-Right 24 Switchblade on one, ready?” ” Break!”
The Panthers lined up in the Pro Set ” Down! Green 30! Green 30! Set Go!” ” Drake takes the snap, and he is plastered to the ground right away! He had just enough time to enter his five-step drop before he was taken down!” Drake got back to his feet, unable to believe just how fast that defense was. ” Inside Zone Fade on one, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the I-Formation ” Down! 390! 390! Set Go!” ” Drakes takes the snap and drops back, and he is plastered again!” In the huddle, Drake called Quarterback Punch. The Panthers lined up in the Singleback Formation, Drake very much aware he was in his endzone. ” Down! White 3! White 3! Set Go!” Once again, Drake hardly had a chance to get going before he was taken for a Safety to make the score 2-0. The Panthers kicked off to the Falcons who were able to score a Touchdown to make the score 9-0.
The rest of the first half produced more of the same as the usual unstoppable Panther offense was reduced to fifty total yards the entire first half due to sacks, interceptions, and tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Luckily the Norton offense had the same luck making the game a defensive struggle. ” Still 9-0 Norton with thirty seconds left in the half, Panther ball on their own five, forth and twenty. And wait a second Drake is coming back on the field. Coach Bud is not sending out the Punt Team; this could be disaster folks. ” Alright gentlemen, we’ve got Quarterback Wheel on Set. Ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the Shotgun Formation, deep in their endzone. ” Down Set!” ” Drake takes the snap and pitches to King, and here comes the Falcon defense!” King threw the ball to Drake who caught the ball and picked up some blocking for once. ” Drake spins out of the way of a Defensive Back, he dodges a Safety, and he breaks free! Drake is at the thirty, the thirty-five, the forty, the forty-five he crosses midfield, and he is not going to be touched. Drake is going to have an escort of Panthers as he reaches the endzone for a Touchdown! And Coach Bud will be happy to have something to go to the locker room with!”
The score as both teams went to the half was 9-7 Falcons. In the locker room Coach Bud encouraged his team to keep strong. When they ran back on the field, the game progressed as usual with both sides unable to get the ball in the endzone for the entire third quarter and for the majority of the fourth quarter until Drake threw his fifth interception that the Falcons scored a Touchdown with but missed the extra point to make the score 15-7. The Falcons kicked off to the Panthers with less than a minute left. ” James fields the kick-off at the fifteen, he picks up some blocking, and he takes off! He spins out of the way of Falcon after Falcon, and he breaks free! He’s at the forty, the forty-five, he crosses midfield with one man to beat, and James levels him! James is going to score; James is going to score! Touchdown Panthers! With twenty seconds left, the Panthers still have a chance at this thing!”
The Panthers successfully converted a two-point conversion to make the score 15-15. They tried a kick-off, but the Falcons recovered. ” Chad Johnson takes the snap and drops back to pass. Here come King and he plants Chad! Fumble on the play! Fumble on the play! Annnnddddd, the Panthers, come up with it! With just seconds left in this ball game, the Panthers have one last chance.” The Field Goal unit came on the field and got ready to kick. ” Chris Lutz prepares to kick a forty-five-yard field goal. And it isssssss... good! I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! Someone stop my heart cause it just stopped! The Panthers are going to the Semi-Finals for the second year in a row!”
Drake pointed to the sky as the Panther fans swarmed the field. He hadn’t played all that good. In fact, he probably had his worst game ever, but that didn’t matter to him at the moment. All he cared about was the fact he had fulfilled his promise to his aunt. After Drake showered and dressed, he went back to the cemetery and stood in front of his aunt’s headstone. ” We did it. One more game and we go to State once again. Thanks for everything.” The wind started to pick up, and Drake’s eyes widened. He swore he could smell his aunt’s perfume. He looked behind him to see no one. After a moment Drake chuckled ” I hear ya” he said before taking off his State Championship ring and placing it at the foot of her headstone.