Clear Eyes Full Heart

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Chapter 15

" Ladies and gentlemen Deacon Paul here and our Easthaven Correctional Panthers are back in the Semi-Finals. Our boys have been through quite a bit this season. They’ve gone from favorites to repeat to lucky to be in the playoffs after the unfortunate departure of Coach Miller, but Coach Bud has done an amazing job in leading this team. Now the Panthers have their toughest test left. They’re facing their old friends from last year’s State Championship the Wakefield Mustangs and if they win it’s possible, we’ll be facing our old friend Tyler Corbin and the Goldenfield Badgers should they beat Mournstead.” Drake switched off the radio in his rental car. It turns out the Snake Canyon head coach had done more than Drake initially thought, so it was still in the shop. He was driving around in his rental, getting his mind right cause in a few days he was facing Wakefield again, and the very idea made him apprehensive.”

A phone call startled him from his thoughts. Drake answered it, ” hello?” ” Is this Drake Solace?” a quiet voice answered. ” Yes, it is.” ” We have the ring here in the jeweler, and it is ready for pick up.” ” Oh, good,” Drake said. ” I’ll be there right away.” ” We’ll be seeing you.” The caller disconnected, and Drake smiled despite the mounting pressure he was feeling. He swung by the jewelry shop and picked up his package. He rushed home and got everything ready. Katrina’s birthday was coming up in a few days, but Katrina had agreed to celebrate a little early so Drake could focus on his game. When Katrina got home that night, Drake met her ” hey you, I’ve got your first gift a little early, and I want to give it to you now if that’s okay.” ” Oh. Okay” Katrina said a little surprised going to the living room. Drake joined her on the couch and whistled for the dogs. Each one walked in the living room, each with something in their collars. Tundra had the business card of a wedding planner; Sierra had a wedding program in her collar, and Fly had a small black box.

Drake reached over and grabbed it, ” your engagement ring came today.” ” I thought you told me it wouldn’t be here until Christmas!” Katrina said playful scolding him. ” yeah well, I lied,” Drake said, handing the box to her. She opened it, and her mouth fell open ” Drake, I love it! But I thought I told you not to spend too much.” ” Don’t tell me what to do” Drake answered with a smirk. Katrina smirked and dumped the water in her water bottle on his head. ” Hey!” Drake said tickling her. As Katrina laughed and thrashed the dogs barked and tried to seperate them. Suddenly Drake felt something on his head, causing Katrina to laugh harder. ” Oreo!” she said, picking the kitten up from Drake’s head, ” you’re so goofy.” She set the kitten down and grabbed Drake’s hand ” me and daddy have to talk about something” she told the animals before pulling Drake away.

Wednesday night Drake was in the liquor store buying some Guinness. Granted he wasn’t twenty-one, but he was the Quarterback of the Panthers and with that came certain advantages. He thanked the clerk and left the store to run into a few familiar faces. ” Kevin?! Grant?! ” His two friends that he had played with last year smiled big when they saw him ” Solace, how’s it going man?!” Kevin asked, giving him a massive hug. ” How’s it going QB 1?” Grant asked fist-bumping him. ” I’m good guys. Gotta say it’s nice to see you two again.” ” Are you just going to ignore me, little brother?” Drake turned around to see Lance wearing his Georgia Bulldog jersey. So were Grant and Kevin now that Drake noticed ” what are you doing here?” Drake asked hugging his brother. ” Well, we have a game against Texas A&M, so we’re in town for a bit.” ” Wait, you two ended up going to Georgia?” Drake asked Grant and Kevin. ” Grant I thought you were going to Duke. Kevin, weren’t you going to Oregon?” ” Changed my mind,” Kevin said. ” And I just said Duke to get my crazy ex away from me,” Grant said. ” Anyway, the three of us were headed to your field, wanna come with?” Lance asked. ” Sure, I’ll call King; see if he wants to come.”

Twenty minutes later, the five of them were on the Panther game field drinking and teasing Drake with his recent engagement while tossing a football around. ” As if you weren’t whipped already,” Grant said, nudging him. Drake chuckled then grew serious ” Too bad I can’t give her a victory this Friday as well.” ” What makes you say that?” Lance asked. ” Drake here has been obsessing over Wakefield. He thinks they’re going to beat us.” King said. ” Oh does Drake have problems, come talk to us, we’ll help you out,” Kevin said. ” I’m just saying,” Drake said, ” Wakefield is a much better team this year than last year. Their defensive line is huge; they can probably beat me at the forty without breaking a sweat. I don’t see how I can take this team any further.” ” Drake, you have what it takes,” Lance said. ” If you want to play big, you’re gonna have to step up. I’m gonna show you how.” He grinned and looked at the others ” On the ball fellas. Drake has some work to do.”

" Set Hut!” Drake dropped back as King ran a post pattern being covered by Kevin and Grant listening to Lance’s instructions ” Stay on your toes Drake stay on your toes. flick them off, flick them off, let it go!” Drake threw the ball just far enough for King to catch it. ” You’ll only have a few seconds to let go of the ball. Wakefield’s line is bigger than you as well as faster so unless you get rid of the ball; you’re going to be eating turf all night. Try again.” ” Set Hut!” Drake said, dropping back to pass ” 3,2,1 throw!” Lance instructed. Drake threw just as Grant put him on his back. ” Geez man, calm down” Drake laughed as Grant helped him up ” can’t do that bro.” ” Kevin, join Grant. Drake needs to deal with being under pressure. Try again Drake,” Lance instructed. ” Set Hut!” Drake said and was immediately rushed by Grant and Kevin ” shake them off Drake, shake them off” Lance said. Drake was able to elude them to throw the ball to King and was taken down a half-second later. ” 18 Yard Out” Lance said. ” No way, I can’t hit that route,” Drake said, ” that’s an automatic six for the other team, most guys in college can’t hit it.” “Well, you can. Keep the ball high and outside. Any Safety worth his salt is going to break on that thinking he’s got a sure interception, but he doesn’t cause you’re keeping the ball high and outside. You hit all the other routes; they’ll respect you. You hit this route, they will fear you. Let’s see you hit it.”

" Set Hut!” Drake said and dropped back, ” flick them off, flick them off, high and outside!” Lance instructed. Drake threw and watched as Kevin went for the ball. It looked like it was an interception, but it sailed over his head into King’s waiting hands who gave a victory yell. ” There it is,” Drake said not being able to believe his eyes ” I just hit it.” ” Yes you did,” Lance answered. ” Now let’s try it with some pressure. Grant and I are gonna come after you; keep us off and hit King high and outside.” Drake nodded “Set Hut!” he said, entering his five-step drop and avoiding Lance and Grant and hitting the 18 Yard Out again. ” Drake,” Lance said ” you’re ready. ”

Friday Night

" Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for the Semi-Finals! And what fitting weather too, it is raining cats and dogs here in Easthaven where our Easthaven Correctional Panthers will take on the Wakefield Mustangs in a rematch from last year’s State Championship! This game is going to be a real slugfest. Now the winner of this game will be taking on Goldenfield in the State Championship! Why don’t we find out who will be joining them in Austin in a couple of weeks? Introducing first, the Wakefield Mustangs!” Loud cheers came from the Mustang fans as the white and blue Mustangs raced on the already soaked field. ” And now introducing the reigning, defending Texas Triple-A State Champions of the wooorrrlllddd, the Easthaven Correctional Panthers!” The Panthers charged on the field to the roar of adoring fans. The captains met on the field for the coin toss, the Panthers won and elected to receive. The Mustangs kicked off, and the game was on.

The rain made the game a struggle for both sides with neither team being able to do much with it for the entire first quarter. ” Still nothing-nothing, seven minutes left in the half and both teams can hardly get going in this rain. ” We’ve got 32 Crossfire Fade on two, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the shotgun ” Down! Red 5! Red 5! Set GoGo!” ” Drake takes the snap and drops back to pass, his blocking breaks down, he scrambles, he throws... and it’s picked off!” Drake swore in Celtic as he watched the Mustang run all the way in the endzone for the first score of the game. After the extra point, the score became 7-0. The rest of the quarter remained a struggle until the final minute where Drake was able to put together a successful drive to the Wakefield Goal line. ” Down! White 33! White 33! Set Go!” Drake takes the snap and heads up the middle; he’s going to be stopped right where he is, wait no, he pitches to King! King dives, and he’s in! Touchdown Panthers right when they needed it!” After the extra point, the score was tied 7-7.

In the locker room at halftime Coach Bud commended his team. ” You boys are doing fantastic. We will win this game. I have no doubts about that. I have one question. Can you boys finish this fight?” ” Yes, sir!” ” Then let’s get out there and finish it then!” The Panthers kicked off to the Mustangs to start the second half, and again both teams struggled to get anything going. The rain only picked up more to the point the referees waved in coaches and captains. ” I don’t think we should play.” ” No, we want to play,” Drake answered. ” So do we,” one of the Wakefield captains said. ” Alright, shake hands gentlemen. In twenty-two minutes, someone’s going to State. Both teams shook hands and went back to their respective sidelines. Neither team scored in the third quarter and for the majority of the fourth until Wakefield scored a field goal to make the score 10-7. The Mustangs kicked off to the Panthers which James returned to the fifteen with just enough time for one more play.

Drake ran on the field ” Alright boys; we need to finish this now. Everyone go long. On one, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the Singleback Formation ” Down! Set Go!” ” Drake takes the snap and drops back to pass; this could be the season right here folks.” Drake threw the ball as hard as he could, slipping as he threw. As he was falling, he was hit in the leg, pain racing throughout his body. He crumbled to the ground as he listened to Deacon Paul ” and Drake just hit the 18 Yard Out! James is going. He’s not going to be touched! He’s going, going touchdown Panthers! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! The Panthers are going to State for the second year in a row!” The final score was 13-10. Drake felt arms under him and being hauled to his feet. ” Let’s get him to a trainer.”

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