Drake sat in the doctor’s office on Saturday morning, his leg feeling like it was on fire. His doctor walked into the room pictures of his x-rays in hand. ” Drake, I have good and bad news. Good news is that it’s nothing too severe, just a tear. A few weeks of rest and you’ll be good as new. But I’m afraid; there is no way you can play in the State Championship. I’m sorry.” ” But my team needs me,” Drake objected. The doctor smiled sympathetically, ” I’m sorry son, but you’re lucky it wasn’t worse. A couple of inches lower and you could have been out for months. Your leg is in a delicate position, one more slip up and you may never play football again. As of now, you will play football again. You should be thankful for that.”
Drake was silent on the way home, pissed off. When he got home, he limped in the house and sat on the couch. Katrina sat next to him and said nothing at first. After a few moments, she sighed, ” sorry Drake.” ” It’s okay; I just wish I could play. This is not how I pictured my high school career ending.” ” I know how much this meant to you Drake,” Katrina said, grabbing his hand. Drake took comfort in the engagement ring on her ring finger. ” Look, no matter what happens in that game, you are going to PSU better than ever. You just need to focus on getting healthy. You heard what the doctor said, one slip up and your career can be over.” ” That’s true, but I’m not good at sitting around and doing nothing,” Drake said. ” Well, you will or else,” Katrina playfully threatened. Drake sighed and leaned back. Why did this have to happen now?
The team was understandably upset when Drake delivered the news he would not be able to play in the State Championship. Drake spent the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday practices teaching everything he knew to Chris who would be covering for him in the big game. If he couldn’t play, the least he could do is make sure his backup could carry the team to a victory. To be certain, Drake scheduled another doctor’s visit on Thursday although he knew it was hopeless. After practice, Wednesday Drake got a text asking him to head to the church her father had once preached at. Usually, after practice, Drake watched game film and hit the weights, but since he wasn’t playing, he figured it couldn’t hurt.
Drake drove to the church just as the service was starting. He was greeted by Katrina, who led him to the front row. The service was enjoyable enough, but Drake was left wishing he was doing his regular routine. The pastor’s voice at the end of the service jarred him from his thoughts. ” Now last Friday Night a young leader in our community was injured after the football game, and doctors have told him that he will not be able to play in the upcoming State Championship game. But we know of a Healer who is greater than any doctor. And tonight I know he will heal this young man so he can lead us to victory once again. Drake?” Drake looked at Katrina’s knowing smirk as she led him to the front of the congregation. To Drake’s surprise, the rest of the team, including Coach Bud was walking up to him. ” My sis set this up,” King said for an explanation. Drake could only smile as everyone laid hands on him and prayed. Drake said a silent prayer as well. God, I’ve tried to do the right thing my whole life. And I know I’ve never been too good at asking you for help, but I’m asking now. Just let me play this last game. Please.
Thursday morning Drake was sitting in the doctor’s office breathlessly awaiting what the doctor would say. When the doctor came back, he looked baffled, ” Drake, I can’t believe it but, your leg has already recovered. When you said you didn’t feel any pain, I was curious but the fact your leg has more or else healed. I’m at a loss for words.” ” So I can play?” Drake asked. ” Now I wouldn’t go that far,” the doctor said. ” Yes I can technically clear you, but you’re not out of the woods yet. You are still in great risk of permanently injuring your leg. One wrong move and your career could still be over. I want you to think long and hard before you make a decision.” Drake took a deep breath and thought, ” go ahead and clear me.” ” Drake” Katrina started, but Drake looked at her ” what’s the point of asking God for a miracle if you’re not gonna take advantage? Go ahead doc.” ” Hope you know what you’re doing son,” the doctor said, making a note on his clipboard.
Friday morning, Drake woke up and started packing his bags. He had called Coach Bud Thursday to tell him he had been cleared to play Saturday. While he had been happy, Coach Bud had asked him if he was sure he wanted to chance it. That seemed to be everyone’s question, but Drake was determined. This was the last high school game he would ever play. Drake finished getting ready and kissed Katrina on the forehead. She woke up and smiled softly, ” heading out?” she whispered. ” Yeah. I’ll see you in Austin,” Drake said before kissing her goodbye and headed out the door. A few moments later, Katrina flew to the bathroom and threw up. Must be getting sick she thought and decided to get checked out.
When Drake arrived at the bus, he was pulled aside by none other but by Coach Miller. ” Hey Drake, ready to go?” ” Yes, sir. You going to be there?” ” I will. What I want to know is, are you sure you should play? And before you respond, I want you to think about it.” Drake looked down as he contemplated what everyone had been telling him. ” I dunno. Everyone keeps telling me I shouldn’t, that I should think of my future. Katrina, my doctor, Coach, but I have to do it. I can’t let this team down.” Coach Miller looked at him for a moment ” Drake, you are a centerpiece of this team. If you decide not to play, no one will look down on you. You have a bright future; I have faith you will make it to the NFL. But, if you think you can handle this, I believe in you.” ” Thanks, coach,” Drake said. ” You’re welcome. Go bring it home.”
The ride to Austin was quiet as everyone was mentally preparing themselves. When they got to the Longhorn stadium, they went to their locker room. Drake found his locker and grinned when he saw his name. ” The Gunslinger” Drake Solace. ” Quite the nickname,” Drake said. ” It ain’t got nothing on the King!” King said. After checking out the locker room, they went out to the field. Drake looked around the Longhorn stadium and saw Katrina in the stands. He waved at her who waved back. He was then greeted by reporters who asked him a bunch of questions, most of them asking how he felt about facing Tyler. ” I have to say; I’m looking forward to this. It’s nothing personal, just business but it’s gonna feel damn good to put him in his place.”
That night Drake and King were walking in the park when Drake noticed a tennis ball. He reached down to pick it up as King said, ” sure you want to touch that Drake, it’s probably covered in dog piss.” ” It’s not covered in dog piss man, it’s fine,” Drake said, throwing it to him. King caught it and threw it back. Neither one said anything for a few moments until King spoke up ” last game coming up.” ” Yep.” ” Any regrets?” King asked. Drake thought for a moment as he threw the ball back ” Nah. How bout you?” ” None,” King said with a grin as the two friends continued to play catch.
Drake knelt in his away uniform, ready to go. This was everything he had been working for all season. He could hear the fans cheering even in the locker room. Coach Bud looked at his team, ” let me ask you, gentlemen, just one question. Can you play like champions?” ” Yes, sir!” The team shouted. ”We have sacrificed for this. We have bled for this. We have sweat for this. We have cried for this. And now it is time for us to cap it off. I want you to take a minute to take all this in. For most of you, this is it. Leave it all on the field. Drake” Coach Bud said ” I’m going to start Chris. No offense intended son, but I’m not sure I want you playing all game. You will play in the second half. Understood?” ” Yes sir,” Drake answered. ” Good. Now let’s go pick a fight with some Badgers.”
" Ladies and gentlemen, it is time! Welcome to the Texas Triple-A State Championship! And do we have a game for you tonight! The reigning defending state champions, the Easthaven Correctional Panthers will take on the Goldenfield Badgers with former Panther backup Tyler Corbin will be taking on the team he turned his back on. Let’s meet the Badgers right now!” The black and gold Badgers raced on the field led by Tyler Corbin wearing a jersey labeled 13 in big gold letters. ” And now the reigning, defending Texas Triple-A State Champions of the wooorrrlllddd, the Easthaven Correctional Panthers!” The Panthers ran on the field, thousands of people loudly cheering. The captains met for the coin toss, Drake staring a hole in Tyler. ” So Drake, you decided to man up for once and show. You gonna cry in your girl’s arms when you lose?” Tyler asked. ” I am sooo looking forward to shutting you up,” Drake said. The coin toss was decided with Goldenfield winning and electing to receive.
" And we are underway! Hathaway fields the kick-off for the Badgers, and he is gonna bring it to the twenty-four.” Tyler jogged on the field and smirked at Drake as his offense took the field. ” Corbin takes the snap and drops back to pass, he throws to Davis, and he is gonna take it to the forty-eight and what a statement made by the Badgers!” Drake watched as the Badgers effortlessly scored a touchdown. After the extra point, the score became 7-0. Drake gritted his teeth as the Badgers recovered an onside kick and scored another touchdown and extra point to make the score 14-0. The Panthers returned the kick-off to the thirty. The offense struggled to get going for the first few downs. ” Fourth and twelve on the Panther twenty-five. Lutz takes the snap and hands off to King, he dodges one defender and another, he knocks Tyler Corbin on his back and King is like a man possessed! King is at the forty, the forty-five he crosses midfield, King is not going to be touched! King is going to score! Touchdown Panthers!”
The score became 14-7. The Panthers kicked off to the Badgers who brought it back to the thirty-three. At first, it seemed like the Panthers were going to stop the Badgers. They went to punt, but to Drake’s anger, he saw it was a ploy ” wait it’s a fake! Corbin is looking to pass, he throws, and Hanson is going to come up with it! He’s going to go all the way, and Goldenfield is gonna score again!” The score became 20-7 after the failed extra point. The Badgers kicked-off to the Panthers which James returned to the twenty-seven. However, the Panthers could do nothing with the ball. To Drake’s horror, Goldenfield’s defense was able to spot all plays coming. ” Tyler must have given them his copy of our playbook!” "This first half has been all Goldenfield. Chris has done his best, but he has not been able to get this Panther ball club going. Chris back to pass, he throws and oh he’s picked off!” Drake swore as he watched the Badger run the interception for a touchdown. The extra point was no good making the score 27-7 by halftime.
Coach Bud looked at his team in the locker room ” we need more. Offensive line you have got to fire off the ball. King, Samson, you need to pick up the intensity. Defense you have to keep them out of the endzone. Drake, you’re in. Bring us back. As for the rest of you, there is a fight going on! Why don’t you show up for it?!” The Panthers returned the kick-off to the nineteen. ” Drake, call whatever you want. Be sure to mix it up; looks like your theory is correct about them having our playbook.” Drake nodded and ran to the huddle ” alright gentlemen, let’s go to work. I Right 24 Switchblade in the Pro Set Formation. On one, ready?”
" Break!” The Panthers lined up in the Pro Set Formation, and Drake could feel the Badger’s arrogance and confidence that they knew what the play was. ” Down! Red 43! Red 43! Set Go!” ” Drake takes the snap and pitches to King, and the Badgers are all out of sorts! They have been taken aback, King drops back to pass, he has Drake, he throws, and Drake comes up with it wide open! Only way Drake is going down is if he trips! He’s at the forty, the thirty-five, the thirty, the twenty-five, the twenty, the fifteen, the ten, the five, Touchdown Panthers!”
With the extra point, the score became 27-14. The Panthers kicked off to the Badgers who returned the kick-off to the forty. The Panthers kept shifting formations, and it was throwing the Badgers off, causing them not to gain another yard, forcing them to punt which King returned to where they punted it from. ” And look at this, the Panthers are running No-Huddle. Drake under center.” ” Down! Red 32! Green 21! Blue 55! Set Go!” ” Drake takes the snap and drops back to pass, his blocking breaks down, he throws to Morgan and the Panthers are executing a shield block! Victor is at the thirty-five the thirty, the twenty-five, the twenty, the fifteen, the ten, the five, and the Panthers are going to score again! And the Badgers had no idea what to do on that play!” With the extra point, the score became 27-21, where it remained for the rest of the third quarter.
The game remained a stalemate for half of the fourth quarter until Drake picked the ball off as the Badgers were about to score. Drake returned it to the thirty. The next play Drake completed a thirty-yard pass to James and capped off the drive with Drake handing the ball off to Samson who ran it in for a touchdown with four minutes left. After the extra point, the score became 28-27 Panthers. They kicked off to the Badgers who returned it to the twenty-five. Despite the defense’s best efforts, the Badgers kept driving the ball upfield as time continued to wind down. Right, when it looked like the Badgers were going to score the Panther started to buckle down, forcing them to a fourth down with only seconds left. The field goal unit came on the field and got ready to kick the field goal. The Panthers stood shoulder to shoulder, and linked hands as the ball was kicked. Drake’s heart dropped to his stomach as the field goal was good. 30-28 Badgers
As the Badgers celebrated on the field, Drake dropped to his knees, tears rushing down his face. King knelt next to him, hugging him as he wept as well. The Panther fans watched as their players bitterly wept having to watch the Badgers celebrate their win. Back in the locker room, the Panthers stood blanky ahead. Family members and friends stood in the locker room as well. Coach Bud looked around and waited a moment before speaking, ” I have never...been more amazed than I am right now. I am in awe of you gentlemen. I asked the people who love you the most to be here for a reason. Gentlemen, you hold your heads up because you are champions.” The Panthers packed up and got ready to board the bus. Just as Drake was getting ready to go, Katrina pulled him to the side ” Drake... I’m sorry.” ” It’s fine. Just sucks you know? I wanted one more State Championship.” Katrina smiled softly, ” not the greatest way to go out huh? But I do have something to tell you to make it better.” ” What’s that?” Drake asked.
Katrina waited a minute before speaking. ” Drake...I’m pregnant.”
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