" Ladies and gentlemen welcome to Portsmouth where the Portsmouth Grizzlies will take on their hated rivals; the reigning defending state champions the Easthaven Correctional Panthers who were defeated 45-17 by the South Pine Wolverines last week.” The Panthers looked at Coach Bud in the away locker room. ” Gentlemen, you know the expectation for tonight. These guys are going to do whatever it takes to get under your skin. They are still pissed about last season. I’m no Coach Miller; I’m no good at giving motivational speeches. Then again, you boys don’t need one. You know what is expected of you. I expect you boys to execute, you understand?” ” Yes, sir.” ” King lead us out.” King stood up, ” alright, everybody up!” The team roared and stood on their feet ” this is our time, we had a misstep last week but not tonight! Not tonight! This is a game we are going to remember for the rest of our lives! Panther Pride on 3! 1 2 3 Panther Pride!”
The Panthers exploded onto the field to a loud mixture of cheers from the Panthers fand and boos from the Grizzlies fans. The Grizzlies came out in their light blue and gold home uniforms to the same reaction. The captains met at the fifty for the coin toss. The Panthers won the toss and elected to receive. The Grizzlies kicked off when the whistle sounded, and one of the most personal feuds in High School football history was renewed. ” James Furgeson fields the kickoff at the fifteen and takes off. He’s going to bring the ball to the twenty-four where the Panthers will set up shop. ” Inside Curve on one” Coach Bud told Drake who nodded and ran on to the field. ” Inside Curve on one, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the T formation ” Down! White 88! White 88! Set Go!” ” Drake steps back and drops back to pass. He has Furgeson open he throws, and Drake gets pasted! Furgeson comes up with it for the first down at the Panther thirty-seven.” Drake got up and rejoined the huddle ” Fullback Shuffle on two, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up with three receivers on the right side. ” Down! White 64! White 64! Set Go Go!”
" Drake takes the snap and hands it off to Samson Myers and immediately gets blasted again! Samson takes it up the middle for ten yards for another first down!” Drake rejoined the huddle ” Quarterback Keeper on three, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the Singleback Formation. ” Down! Black 12! Black 12! Set Go Go Go!” ” Drake takes the snap and rolls to the right side, he sheds a tackle, and he takes off! Drake crosses midfield, eludes another tackle as he reaches the forty-five, he’s at the fort, the thirty-five and he will be pushed out of bounds at the thirty-three and oh! Drake gets leveled with a late hit, but there is no flag!” Drake exchanged a look with the Grizzly who had hit him in the back after he had been pushed out. ” Stick around buddy, next play is coming to you,” Drake said before running to rejoin his huddle. ” Alright boys, let’s finish this off. Coast to Coast Post on one, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers line up in the I-Formation. ” Down! Red 9! Red 9! Set Go!”
" Drake drops back to pass, he throws it to King at the right side, but King throws it back! Drake breaks a tackle and lets it fly, he’s got Tight End Victor Morgan wide open in the endzone, and it is caught! Touchdown Panthers!” The score became 7-0 after the extra point. The Panthers kicked off to the Grizzlies who returned it to the thirty. The Grizzly offense made quick work of the Panther defense to tie up the score. They kicked off to the Panthers which was fielded by King who returned it to the twenty-five. ” Tight End Sweep on one, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the T Formation ” Down! Gold 66! Gold 66! Set Go!” ” Drakes takes the snap and gives it to Victor Morgan who is gonna rumble for twelve yards for a first down. Let’s go Halfback Screen on two, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the Shotgun Formation. ” Down! Red 39! Red 39! Set GoGo!” ” Drake takes the snap, drops back, throws it to King, and he is going to get leveled again! King is going to take it up the middle, dodge a tackle, spins out of the way of another as he reaches midfield with one man to beat, he jukes and he’s got nothing but open field! King is going to go all the way! To the thirty-five, the thirty, the twenty-five, the twenty, the fifteen, the ten, the five, and that’s going to be a Panther touchdown!”
After the extra point, the score became 14-7 Panthers with both crowds going crazy in the middle of the second quarter. However, they did not have the lead long before the Grizzlies scored another touchdown and a field goal to make the score 17-14 Grizzlies at the half. In the locker room Coach, Bud looked at his team ” you boys are giving it all you got. You’re laying it all on the field, you have done fantastic thus far. Now let’s get out there and finish what we started. The Panthers ran out back to the field and kicked off to start the second half. Again the exceptional Grizzly offense had very little resistance in posting a touchdown and an extra point to make the score 24-14 Grizzlies. The Grizzly fans acted like they had already won the game as their team kicked off to the Panthers. ” Sawyer fields the kick-off at the ten yard-line, and he takes it up the middle to twenty-five where he’s going to be brought down.”
" Halfback Veer on one, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the I-Formation ” Down! Red 54! Red 54! Set Go!” ” Drake takes the snap and rolls to the left outside, he is hit at the line of scrimmage but pitches the ball to King who is at the thirty, the thirty-five, the fort, the forty-five and is going to be brought down at the forty-seven.” Drake got back in the huddle ” Halfback Option Slingblade on two, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the Pro Set. ” Down! Green 30! Green 30! Set GoGo!” ” Drakes takes the snap and hands it off to Myers who is gonna pitch it to King who drops back to pass, he has Drake wide open, he throws...” Drake jumped up and snagged the ball at the Grizzly thirty-nine yard-line. He landed on his feet and took off. ” Drake is at the thirty-five, the thirty, he sheds a tackle, and he has nothing but daylight! He’s at the twenty-five, the twenty, the fifteen, the ten the five and that is going to be a Panther touchdown! And Drake is showing the kind of exceptional leader he is tonight!” After the extra point, the score became 24-21.
The Panthers kicked off to the Grizzlies who again, made light of the Panther defense and scored another touchdown and after the extra point, the score became 31-21 Grizzlies. The rest of the third quarter was uneventful with the Panthers being unsuccessful in mounting a comeback. Towards the end of the third quarter, Drake dropped back to pass but was hit as he threw, causing it to fall short and be picked off for a pick-six. After the extra point, the score was 38-21 Grizzlies at the end of the third. ” Short term memory Drake, short term memory, forget about it.” Coach Bud said. King returned the kickoff to the Grizzly forty-five and Drake ran back on the field, determined to avenge that last drive. He joined the huddle ” alright guys; it’s not over yet, let’s show these punks just who we are. We’re going Pro slot Triple Gun on three, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the T-Formation. ” Down! Red 57! Red 57! Set GoGoGo!” ” Drake takes the snap and drops back to pass, he has Ferguson wide open in the endzone, he throws, and it is caught! And the Panthers aren’t done yet!” After the extra point, the score became 38-28 Grizzlies.
" Drake, I need you to go in for Safety for next defensive series” Coach Bud said ” our defense has been getting eaten alive all night. I know I said I’d lighten your workload the best I could, but I need you out there.” ” Yes sir,” Drake said. The Grizzlies returned the ball to the twenty-seven. As usual, their offense had no problems driving down the field and was about to attempt to score one last time to put the game out of reach. The Panthers got in the defensive huddle, and Drake looked at the left Cornerback. ” Switch me spots.” ” What, why?” ” I know what I’m doing.” The Cornerback looked at King who nodded. ” Alright man.” The Panthers lined up in the Dime against the Grizzlies in the Shotgun Formation. The ball was snapped, and Drake moved. ” Pass is, intercepted! Drake intercepted the pass! He is off! He is not going to be caught. He crosses midfield, the forty, the thirty, the twenty, the ten, and Drake is going to score!”
Loud cheers came from the Panther fans, and Drake jogged back to the sideline. ” That was brilliant Drake!” Coach Bud said. ” I had a hunch; I’m just glad it paid off.” After the successful two-point conversion the score was 38-36 Grizzlies with just a minute left to play, and the Panthers lined up for a kickoff. ” If the Panthers do not recover this onside kick, this game will be over. Here’s the kick, it bounces off a Grizzly’s hands aaaannndd, it’s Panthers ball! The Panthers have one last shot at this football game!” Drake got in the huddle breathless, covered in sweat and bleeding from a few cuts. ” We’ve got one last chance; everyone go long. On one.” ” Drake, regardless of what happens, we’re with you man, you carried us tonight,” King said which the rest of the team agreed on. ” It wasn’t just me man, we all do our part around here. Let’s go on one, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the Singleback formation. ” Down! Set Go!”
" Drake drops back to pass, his blocking breaks down, he scrambles, and he takes off!” Drake eluded a Grizzly and ran to the thirty-five than the thirty, he fought off another Grizzly and kept going. ” Drake is at the fifteen, the ten, the five, and he is going to be brought down! Did he get in?” Drake’s heart sank when he saw the ball was only a few inches from the goal line. ” No he didn’t, and that’s gonna be the ball game folks! What a heart breaker, these Panthers fought so hard only to lost in the final few seconds of this one.” Drake sat on his knees, staring at the ground, wishing a hole would appear underneath him and swallow him whole. He slowly got up and started to walk back to his team when a Grizzly stopped him. Drake braced himself for an altercation but instead, the Grizzly extended a hand. ” Good game tonight six.” ” You too man,” Drake said shaking his hand.
Drake and the rest of his team were silent on the bus ride back. The fact they had just lost their second game in a row was brutal and left Drake worrying about the future. And with Saxondale’s seemingly impenetrable defense coming up, Drake knew that the team needed a swift boot up the ass. When they got off the bus, Drake caught up with King, James and Samson ” guys we have got to figure something out. If we don’t come together, Saxondale is going to kill us. We need to call a meeting.” ” Agreed,” King said, ” we’ll circle the wagons Monday.” ” Sounds good,” James said. ” See you boys then,” Samson replied walking away. Drake met up with Katrina and drove home in silence. When they got home, they were greeted with a comical sight. Fly, Sierra, and Tundra were trying to get to their food, but a small black and white male kitten was swiping their snouts whenever they got too close to their bowls.
The dogs cried and rushed behind Drake and Katrina when they saw their humans were home. Katrina laughed and picked the cat up ” Oreo what are you doing?” she asked the kitten who mewed and wrapped his front legs around Katrina’s neck. The dogs started barking, upset that the cat was hogging their mom as Drake and Katrina sat down at the table. ” Hey you three, stop barking. No barking” Drake told the dogs who didn’t listen. Drake sighed and got up and got the dogs bacon strips and a treat for Oreo before sitting back down. Oreo stretched across Katrina’s lap and meowed. Katrina petted the cat and looked at Drake, ” sorry about the game.” ” Yeah, well that’s football. You can try your best and still fail. I’m just worried about the rest of the season, if we don’t get it together, we may miss the playoffs, and I need all the games I can get to get the attention of the right school.” ” You guys will be fine.” ” I hope so. It’d be nice to win another State Championship.”
On Monday, Drake, King, Samson, and James got word to the team of a meeting in the gym after school. When the day ended the rest of the team gathered in the gym, but when they didn’t see Coach Bud, they looked around in confusion until Drake and King walked in front of them. ” Hey, where’s Coach?” one of the players asked. ” Coach didn’t call this meeting, we did,” Drake said. The team groaned and started to get up, but Samson and James appeared in front of the doors ” hey hey! You sit down! You don’t leave until we tell you to. ” James said. " Sit down and shut up!" Samson added. The rest of the team begrudgingly sat back down and looked at Drake and King ” look, guys, I know it’s been rough ever since Coach left, but that doesn’t mean we can just quit. The rest of the season is only going to be harder. Saxondale has the highest-ranked defense this year. And if you people want to sit on your asses and miss State this year, be my guest. As for me, I plan on getting another ring.” King said. ” Time to wake up gentlemen, Coach Miller is off fighting cancer for God sakes. It’s time to become the Easthaven Correctional Panthers again.” Samson said.
Silence followed for a few moments before a member of the team spoke up, ” we do owe it to Coach to at least make it to the playoffs.” The others muttered their agreement,” and it would be nice to go to State again.” More mutters of agreement. ” So what’s it going to be?” Drake asked. ” Are we going to just sit on our asses or are we going to kick some ass Friday Night?” ” We’re gonna go kick some ass!” Came the unified response. ” Panther Pride on 3. 1 2 3.” ” Panther Pride!”
Drake sat in the locker room Friday Night wearing his home uniform, getting himself ready for the game that would either make or break his team’s season. Coach Bud gave a little speech to his team more or less voicing what his team captains had said last Monday and then it was game time. Drake led the team out to the field and stared at the white and silver Saxondale Cougars. These two teams had met in the Quarter-finals last year in a game that was one of Drake’s hardest. Tonight was not just about impressing college recruiters, tonight as far as he was concerned was about survival. The two captains met at the fifty and Saxondale won the toss electing to receive. For the first half, neither team was able to score as the game was all defense. In the middle of the third quarter, the Panthers managed to score a field goal and held the led until the three minutes left in the third quarter where Saxondale was able to score a touchdown. With just two minutes left Drake ran back to the huddle, pissed off at himself. He had been sacked five times and thrown three picks. Granted he had over 250 passing yards, but he was furious with the fact the offense had only been reduced to three points all game.
" We’re going Hitch and Go Lateral on two, ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up In the Shotgun Formation. ” Down! Red 85! Red 85! Set Go Go!” ” Drake takes the snap and drops back to pass, he throws to Victor who pitches it to King who dodges a tackle, makes it to the twenty-five and be brought down at the twenty-eight for it to be 4th with the two-minute warning sounding.” Drake ran to the sideline and met with Coach Bud. ” Drake, I want you to tun the No Huddle Package, go on one the whole time, see if you finish this game off.” ” Yes sir,” Drake said and ran back to the huddle. ” Alright boys we’re running the No-Huddle Package, Play fifty on one. Ready?” ” Break!” The Panthers lined up in the I-Formation ” Down! Orange 21! Orange 21! Set Go!” ” Drakes takes the snap and drops back to pass, his blocking breaks down, he scrambles out of the pocket, and he takes off! Drake is at the thirty, the thirty-five, the forty and he’ll be brought down at the forty-two. But he did not get out of bounds, so the clock is still rolling.”
" Hang on here; the Panthers are not huddling up. They are running a no-huddle offense and Saxondale is struggling to line up.” ” Down! White 15! White 15! Set Go!” ” Drakes takes the snap and hands it off to King who takes it to the right outside, and he’s going to pick up twelve yards before being pushed out of bounds. We have a 1:25 left ladies and gentlemen with the Panthers at the Saxondale forty-eight. The Panthers hurry to the line and Drake gets under center.” ” Down! Red 27! Red 27! Set Go!” ” Drake takes the snap and drops back to pass, he’s got Furgeson open, he throws, and it is caught! Furgeson is brought down at the nineteen but did not get out of bounds. The clock is running as both teams frantically try to get into position.” ” Let’s go; let’s go!” Drake yelled as he tried to get his guys in gear ” Down! Red 45! Red 45! Set Go!” ” Drake hands off to King who heads up the middle, he makes it to the fifteen, the ten, he’s at the five, and he jumps over a Saxondale defender! Touchdown Panthers! Touchdown Panthers!”
The crowd went crazy as the Panthers met in the endzone, picking KIng up cheering loudly. The score became 10-7 Panthers after the extra point. Thirty seconds later, the game was over. Drake celebrated with his team in the locker room before heading out where he saw a man walk up to him. ” Drake Solace?” ” Yes, sir?” “Trevor Yue from USC, how would you feel about playing for us next fall?”