Growing up in America, football is a major sport, but football isn’t merely a sport; it’s treated as a religion in Texas. Everywhere you turn, a city or town celebrates their team and treats them like demigods. So, in the humidity, rain, and sunshine, all most boys growing up know is that football is second to God.
Not far between Waco and the greater Dallas-Fort Worth region sits a small city of about fifteen thousand residents known as Brighton. It’s the home of the Grizzlies; with a Hunter Green and Silver color scheme on their jerseys, the team sits in the 4A division of the Patriot Conference. The small city consists of mainly everything you’d expect from a major city, but the heart and soul sit at the Northeastern. Brighton High School is known for its speed and flexibility on the field. However, the high school shows its age with faded center blocks and a campus covered in pine trees for students and teachers to enjoy when class is outside.
As the community anxiously awaits the new season to begin, the players gather at the newly remodeled field with fresh turf and new bleachers with an updated sound and lighting system. It’s a season with high expectations as the two-time state junior varsity championship team has moved to the varsity level. The Grizzlies are junior class heavy, with very few returning seniors for the season, but as they park and exchange high-fives and fist bumps, they make their way into the locker room.
One of the last players to enter the locker room is a junior all-state talented Tight End, Clarke Harbor, a caucasian six-foot two-hundred-pound young man with pitch-black hair and a lean build, but with such speed, he’s able to knock defensive players on their ass before they realize it. Clarke hates the game, but being born and raised as a legacy player since his father was an all-star player who made a name for him playing for Sam Houston State, he wants to honor his memory by playing the same position. Once seated, the head coach makes his way out of the office to begin the usual pep talk.
Every player is excited to get back on the field, but as they sit there, fresh paint and steel float in the air from brand-new lockers with each of their names already attached. Clarke stands by his locker, leaning against it waiting to hear the same old speech he’s heard from every coach he’s played for over the years.
“Alright, my young Grizzlies, how hungry are we this year?” Coach Mack Sparks cries out with his fist jerking up and down.
The team stands and imitates the grizzly roar, except for Clarke, who continues to lean and watch the balding coach with salt and pepper hair with a 1970s porno mustache get the team riled up.
“Do you want a bite of that title this year?” Coach Sparks cries as the team imitates the roar, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” Then, he screams at the top of his lungs as the entire team gets louder.
“Yeah, woohoo, yay,” Clarke says to himself in his deep voice.
“Get dressed, and let’s hit the field, men!”
One thing Clarke does notice, the dark chocolaty brown eyes of his best friend are missing. Hector Sanchez, the third-rated top quarterback in Texas, is nowhere to be seen. So, feeling the cool air-conditioned air blowing around him, Clarke raises his hand to get the coach’s attention.
“Yes, sir Mr. Harbor. What’s on your mind?”
“Coach Sparks, sir, where’s Hector? He’s our starting QB, right?”
Drawing a deep breath into his chubby torso, Coach Sparks gives the team their first set of bad news, “Gentlemen, we’ll have to hold a tryout for a new starting quarterback. But, unfortunately, I need to tell you that Hector’s parents were caught in a sting by ICE agents a few hours ago, and Hector personally called me to tell me that he will need to get a job to help provide for himself and his sisters as he’s the oldest sibling and his right to provide until something can be arranged.”
The energy gets sucked from the room like a vacuum as the players look at each other in shock.
“Man! That’s some bullshit!” One of the other Hispanic players calls out and hits his locker, “They’re good people. Why do good people who want a better life always get kicked in the balls by those fuckers?”
“Use proper language in my locker room, or it’ll cost you some extra laps after practice, Rodney.” The coach replies, pointing at the tall, head-shaven, dark-complected linebacker.
Backed off from his comment, Rodney drops his hands and then begins to slip out of his clothes and into his practice jersey. The team follows and walks into the humidity onto the field, where they start with stretches followed by suicide runs from the endzone to the 25-yard line and back. After they’ve warmed up and feel limber, they meet with their respective assistant coaches as the day is spent getting familiar with plays and schemes.
As practice continues, the players feel the new bright green turf beneath their feet and how tough it is to walk on for the first time. They start to get a feel of the new field. The Texas wind blows light dust in their eyes, making things a little more challenging.
Before being dismissed from the sweltering heat, the coach stops the camera and tells the team to meet at midfield and take a knee, “Alright, team, our first practice is written and recorded. I’m not going to fib to y’all, but analysts expect us to do no better than having a mediocre season. But, of course, they’re predicting we break even with wins and losses, but I say to hell with that prediction and them! Do you want it all?” Coach Sparks yells, shaking his fist while pivoting in a circle to meet everyone in their eyes.
“We want it all, coach! We want that state championship!” One of the African American players replies with his helmet held high.
Seconds later, the rest of the team followed, their helmets held high. Clarke holds his helmet up, but he feels a bit lost without his best friend by his side. Clarke wipes the sweat from his forehead with his hand, then listens as he’s excused from practice to get showered and head home.
“Great hustle for the first day y’all! There’s still a lot to get you juniors caught up on before the first snap of the season, but we’ll get you there. Welcome to the big leagues, boys!” Coach Sparks announces as he and the assistant coaches jog behind the team back to the locker room.
Inside and undressed, most of the boys romp and wrestle around in the shower area. Those who feel the harsh winds from practice inhale the steam from the piping hot water. Clarke uses the corner shower using his Dove shower wash and rinses his hair. Then, drying off and wrapping the damp brown towel around his waist, Clarke slips into his muscle shirt and boxers, pulls up a pair of basketball shorts extending below his knees, and styles his hair with LA Hair brand mousse before leaving the locker room.
Feeling slightly depressed, Clarke exits the locker room, and just after he shoves the heavy gunmetal gray door open, he calls Hector.
“Hey, man, I can’t talk long; the boss will ride my ass!” Hector says when he answers using a low gravely voice with a mild Spanish dialect in his voice.
“Well, howdy to you too, quitter,” Clarke jokes as he walks to his car, “Nah, I’m kiddin’, but I heard ’bout your folks getting sent back to Mexico. Everything cool? Y’all need anything or anything that I can do?”
When Hector shuffles his phone so the manager won’t see him talking, he curls it close to his mouth, “Nah, damn G-men gringos fucked up my life plans, homie. I gots this, but I appreciate you having my back. Like I’ve always said, you’re white, but you have a Latino’s heart. Anyway, I gotta go, boss is coming; if you can check on my sister’s mi amigo. Adios!” Hector asks a millisecond before the call ends.
Hector’s voice doesn’t seem right, but Clarke opens the door to his mid-80s black Mercury Cougar and turns the key bringing the V8 to life. Clarke drives to the city’s western end once the windows are down and the sunroof flipped up. He stops in front of the low-income-based apartments and walks inside. Knocking on the apartment door, he calls out in Spanish, “Hola, soy yo, Clarke, tu hermano quería que los controlara a todos.”
The door slowly creaks open, “You know we speak English, you idiot!” Nara whispers and looks up and down the hall to see if it’s clear.
“I know, but I have to test my Spanish. You know I’m not like every other white guy around. Ya, feel me?”
It’s a moment that cracks the tension as the laughter echoes all around the white corridor. Nara yanks Clarke inside the instant she hears one of the old heavy metal doors slam shut so he doesn’t risk getting shot for being there. Once it’s locked, Clarke sees the damage done inside the apartment, with curtains on the concrete floor and furniture tossed, and the place left a mess.
“Holy shit, they did a number in this place. Why did ICE have to take it this far?” Clarke asks, seeing the two younger pre-teen girls on the floor coloring.
Nara groans and holds her head low, “there was a tip of gang activity from Mexico supposedly moving in here, and they raided every floor. When our father opened the door, the agent saw the ’13 Soldado del Ejercito on his forearm. Since you know dad served in the Mexican Army, they took it as a gang tattoo and radioed to rush our apartment. My ears still hurt from the flashbang.”
“Why weren’t y’all taken to Children Services?” Clarke asks, feeling the fan circulate his way for a brief moment.
“Because Hector stood up and said he could take care of us. He was already working at 7/11, and all they did was ask for a pay stub, and when he showed it to the guy, he took our parents and left. We’ve been here ever since, afraid they will return for us or worse. I’m worried the pervert down the hall is gonna try to come onto us. Our aunt and uncle are coming from Montana, but it’s something like a three-day trip. Hector will stay in case mom and dad find a way back here, but we’re going back with them to their ranch,” Nara pauses for a second, then pulls her head up to meet her dark green eyes with Clarke’s to ask for a simple request, “Would you be mad if I asked you to order us a pizza or some take out from Amigos Tacos and Nachos?”
“Name what you want, and I’ll order it through their app and have it delivered. I’ll stick around until it’s here. Y’all are like my little sisters, so don’t hesitate to ask.”
An idea snaps into Nara’s head to joke around with Clarke, “Too bad you see me that way. I’d love to take you to my room and let you have your way with me,” she winks and licks her lips as Clarke is the first guy she’s ever found attractive.
“NARA!” Clarke whispers with a shocked expression, “You’re barely fifteen, and I’m almost seventeen. You’re also my best friend’s little sister. I couldn’t ever do that to you without assurance it’d never get out, and if I had a condom on me and we were alone, I’d consider it.” Clarke whispers leaning by Nara’s ear to tease her knowing her crush on him.
There’s a quick gasp, and Nara holds her hands over her stomach, unable to form a thought. Typically Clarke is all serious, but hearing him tease her like that has her feeling wet and tempted to find out how far she could push her luck. Then, to add more misery to her, Clarke uses the blindside from the two younger girls and pinches Nara about an inch under her bra through her plain red t-shirt. Nara lightly scoffs with her mouth wide open, feeling her body heat up more. She pulls her hands up through her long black hair and back down her thin frame, trying to impress Clarke.
“I don’t have anything on under my shorts,” she admits using a whisper while she grinds her tongue over her two top front teeth, “I can send my sisters to the park if you’re serious.”
Clarke lowers the boom. “Not today, sexy. Maybe when you’re older and if I’m single.”
Feeling defeated, Nara adjusts her cut-off shorts that almost shows her tight tiny ass. Before she walks to the couch, she notices that Clarke has a hard-on that it’s noticeable. As she walks past him, she reaches out quickly, pats his dick, and then winks, “Your loss. I’m a virgin. I’d love to have you as my first.”
Aching to go for it, Clarke adjusts himself, then turns to join Nara on the couch, “Cali, Baja, what do you want from Amigos?” Clarke calls out.
“Fish tacos!” Cali, the second youngest, calls out, “Nachos with jalapeños por favor y gracias,” Baja looks up and says.
It doesn’t take Clarke long to log in and place a Door Dash order on his iPhone.
While the two young, dark, tanned with short-styled hair, Latinas continue to color and ignore Nara and Clarke, “See, they’re not paying attention to us. Let me see it, please.”
Against his better judgment, Clarke begins to lift the top of his shorts. However, he pauses when a knock travels from the door.
Nara gets up to see who it is and when she sees the African American female delivery driver, Door Dash, she opens the door and takes the food and drinks, “Garcias.”
“De Nada. Have a good day!” The tall, thin lady mentions, then walks away.
“Okay, food is here! You can eat back in our room if you want so you can watch TV,” Nara calls out, taking out her tacos before she hands the bag to her sisters.
Excited, the girls get up from the cool concrete floor. Then, with the bag in Baja’s tiny marker-stained hands, they vanish, and soon the TV can be heard from the back bedroom.
“They’re gone! Let me see it, please!” Nara demands, reaching with her free hand and grabbing Clarke’s shorts. She peels back the top of his shorts to see his dick has gone soft, “Wow! Even down, it’s massive!” She admits, holding his shorts out.
“How many have you seen? And you can let go now. You got to see it,” Clarke mentions feeling himself getting worked up again.
Nara shrugs her shoulders as she leans over to drop her V-cut shirt down a bit to give Clarke a view down her shirt, “You can touch me if you want. It’ll stay between us, I promise. But, remember, I’m getting ready to move away. So why not make me a woman before I leave?”
That’s all it takes, and Clarke can’t control getting another hard-on, “See, you like it. Let me hold it or something, pretty please.” Nara asks but goes ahead and slides her hand under his shorts, grabbing Clarke’s hardened cock.
“I need to go before we do something I’d regret. I can’t, if you weren’t my best friend’s little sister and a year older, I would do it, but I, no, we can’t do anything,” Clarke says, then gets up heading for the door.
“Wait! I’m sorry! I just really, really, really like you, Clarke. I have for like a really long while.
Stuck between the door, hallway, and apartment, Clarke pauses to look at Nara. He sees her in a new light, but inside his soul, he knows it would be a major disrespect to his best friend, but before he can regain his senses, Nara rushes to him to experience her first kiss.
The kiss only lasts a few seconds. Then, Clarke pulls away and sees Nara’s eyes grow wide, prepared to get lectured or something worse that will break her heart; Clarke walks away without saying anything.
“I gave you your first kiss, and that’s all I’m doing, Nara. You will make some young stud a helluva girl, but this isn’t going any further,” he pauses when Nara quickly grips her shirt and bra, exposing her perky, barely C-cup breasts, and Clarke sees her dark nipples hard and wants some attention, “I’ll see ya around.”
The door slams shut from its weight, and Clarke walks away feeling shaky, struggling to fight the urge to fuck his best friend’s oldest but gorgeous little sister. Back at the door, Nara stands there, feeling rejected as tears begin to form in her eyes, confused between love and lust over Clarke.
Hearing his footsteps resonate through the stairwell, Clarke gets in his car to drive home. The sun starts to dip from the sky, sending a vibrant cherry shade into the atmosphere with white clouds floating high above the city. Unfortunately, the pleasantry doesn’t last long; the scent of trouble begins to brew in the air after Clarke rounds the corner and sees his stepfather getting home. Instantly filled with rage, Clarke slows down to give his stepfather time to walk inside before their usual nightly stand-off.
Parked in the driveway, Clarke’s mind returns to his childhood when his father was alive and replays memories of when they would play around in the front yard of the gray stone-style ranch house. Clarke would run around the dark cherry wood pillars around the front porch when they were told it was time to come inside. The pinewood hunter green shudders they hung up one summer before he died. They’ve faded over time. Clarke begins to feel his anxiety kick up a bit.
Shutting his eyes and drawing in some deep breaths, Clarke regains control of his racing heart, which helps slow his pulse. Once inside, he drops his bag in the laundry room and then escapes to his bedroom to ignore Wade, his stepfather. It isn’t long after the door shuts that the overweight, red-haired demon barges into Clarke’s room.
“You’re late. Out getting ya some ass from your little brown-skinned boyfriend,” Wade begins and continues between sips of his bourbon, “Oh wait, I bet his worthless ass got sent back to dirty Mexico with his two-time loser parents. That tip to ICE at City Hall was worth it,” Wade wipes away the access liquor on his mustache with his tongue, “Hey! I’m talking to you, homo!”
Clarke keeps his back to Wade. All he does is feel his hands and face trembling, “We’re not gay, you stupid bastard. Keep popping your mouth off, and one of these days, I’m going to make sure you swallow your damn teeth, ya sum bitch.”
Waving his manicured, wrinkle-free hand at Clarke in a girly manner, Wade gawks around the warm mocha-painted bedroom and sees Clarke’s computer sitting on the desk. Wade tosses what’s left of his alcohol on Clarke’s computer in his semi-drunken state. Sparks and hissing noises get Clarke’s attention, “Are you fucking stupid? That’s my computer, you jackass!”
“Do something about it, then, ya soft-handed pussy. C’mon, take a poke at me. I’ll toss your ass in the slammer where you can get all the ass fucking pleasure you can handle.”
Clarke approaches Wade with a fist drawn back, but instead of hitting his stepfather, Clarke strikes the wide doorframe, followed by a loud thump. As his hand comes back, blood smudges the white frame.
Wade looks over at it and laughs, “HA-HA, look what I made you do. Oh, your mommy is gonna be pissed at you when I tell her that you took my drink and spilled it on your computer. She spent good money on that, you ungrateful little bastard,” Wade pauses with his eyes shut for only a moment, “Hey, here’s an idea: drop out of school, become a truck driver, and never come back to my house.”
“My father bought this house with my mother. Get the fuck out of here, you sorry piece of shit. I don’t know what my mother sees in you, but we’re better off without you. Get lost, you sorry ass drunk.”
Smiling from his buzz, Wade lifts his left hand in the air and points to his chubby stomach that’s getting close to sagging at his beltline, thinking he’s pointing at his penis.
“Unlike you, I don’t go dicky-dicky. You see, there’s a concept called being straight,” Wade pauses to take his tone to a whisper, “And you see, your mommy likes Mr. Slinky Winky in my pants. I can make her cum like Niagra Falls. I’m just glad that she had her tubes burnt, so I can’t procreate anymore of your sorry little bastards. I hate kids. If it was legal, I would have taken you and your sisters out in the desert and shot all of you when I married your mom.”
Unable to control his shaking, Clarke reaches for his door and slams it in Wade’s face, leaving him busted open and landing on his ass.
“You ungrateful bastard! I hope you die!” Wade screams, holding a hand over his bloody nose and chin.
Clarke stands at his bedroom door, ready to fight, but it takes Wade a minute to pull himself to his feet. He uses the table at the end of the hallway and breaks it along with the spider plant covering the mahogany hardwood floor in soil.
When Clarke calms down, he can hear his mother and stepfather arguing over the altercation. The rest of the night, Clarke lies on his bed looking at his phone; he hears Wade’s Lexus sedan start, leaving black marks on the road after being kicked out.
Over the next few days, there’s tension in the house. Daisy, Clarke’s mother, a tall curvy woman with shoulder-length dark brown hair, a permanent tan, and blue eyes, is a successful pharmacist with her own business. She spends a little extra time at work while Clarke enjoys time with Hector after practice until his aunt and uncle arrive and take Hector’s sister back to Montana, leaving Hector to fend for himself until a decision is discovered about his parents.
A few weeks later, Hector hears from his mother on a collect call to the apartment that they can’t afford to try to cross the border again, “I wish we would get back to you and your sisters, but if we get caught again it could cost us up to ten years of our lives!” Mrs. Sanchez says again, trying to talk over the heavy static on the phone.
“It’s okay, mom. Uncle Santana and Aunt Linda took Nara, Cali, and Baja with them,” Hector says with the receiver away from his ear, listening to the static worsen.
“Hijo, Hijo, my sweet boy, what about you? Are you fed and safe?”
Hector looks around the semi-empty, cold-feeling, outdated government apartment, “Yeah, I’m good, madre. My boss lets me take home hot grill items, and Clarke ensures I’m at practice and even brought groceries over. I haven’t had anyone over, and the landlord doesn’t care as long as he gets his rent. I promise all is good. I miss you, but I am going to get off the phone. I love you, mom.”
If Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez are caught without a Visa or Green Card, they’ll be sent to a federal prison in Mexico since they’ve been caught twice, as both countries are trying to crack down on illegal border crossings.
Knowing what’s going on, Hector’s uncle agrees to help him out with the rent but leaves the agreement that Hector covers the electric and water bills until he can find the right time to move to Montana. Part of the agreement allows Hector to return to part-time work in the evenings after practice, and he resumes his place on the team and earns the starting quarterback position in time to get caught up as Brighton prepares to open the season with a road game against Harden Hawks.
The Hawks are the defending conference champions and the archrival team closest to Brighton, with a long history. The season-opening game is a first, as the teams usually play the matchup at the end of the season to either make or break their hopes.
As the dust swirls in the air, the metal bleachers fill with fans carrying towels or a light blanket as a barrier on the heated aluminum bench seats an hour before kickoff. Students, both school bands, cheerleading, and flag squads, take their spots in their designated areas. Soon, the energy builds between both sides when each team’s fanbase chants “Grizzlies” and “Hawks.”
Inside the gray cinderblock locker room, the entire Grizzly team waits for the coach. When he walks into the locker room, he’s accompanied by a pastor carrying a Bible in his hand, “Gentlemen, if you will, please bow your heads. You don’t need to pray if you’re not religious, but please show Pastor Dillon respect.”
Every player does as instructed and repeats the Lord’s Prayer, followed by the pastor wishing the team the best of luck and walking to the home team side to pray with them.
“Alright, team, it’s time to head out to the field for battle. Tonight is the first game, which means we can set the tone of the season. Of course, they hate us as much as we hate them but remember to show them the respect they deserve when it comes to shaking hands after the game. ARE YOU READY?” Coach Sparks says, trying to fire up the team.
“YEAH!” They yell as they grab their helmets and follow the coach and captains to the field. After, they’re introduced to a mix of boos and cheers with a bright cherry sunset over the stadium.
The referee looks at Brighton at midfield with his mic turned on, “Good evening, young men. Being the visiting team, you get to call the toss, so Brighton, what’s your call?” The skinny middle-aged man asks.
“Tails, sir,” One player calls out as the coin flies, and it comes up heads.
With the coin resting on the grass, the referee looks at Harden, “Hawks have won the toss. Do you want to kick off or defer to the second half?”
“We defer, sir.”
“Very well, the Brighton Grizzlies take the ball first. Brighton players, which endzone do you want, North or South?”
Feeling the wind flowing from the South, the Grizzlies want to throw with the wind, “South, sir, thank you.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, you heard it. Brighton takes the ball first. Let’s get ready for kickoff; best of luck to both teams.”
It doesn’t take long for the teams to line up, and as the placekicker charges toward the brand-new football, the home crowd slowly grows into a single roar screaming, “BOOM!” when the ball goes sailing into the end zone for a touchback.
Out on the field for the first time, the Grizzlies line up, feeling sweaty and nervous, in a shotgun formation with three wide receivers, two lined up to the left and one right, with Clarke lined up on the right side. Hector looks over the defense and sees the potential blitz in the A-Gap.
“Baltimore! Baltimore!” Hector cries out, changing the play to a play-action pass to Clarke in the middle of the field.
Hearing the audible, Clarke looks up to get ready to run, his finger pushed into the dirt, feeling the slight itch from the natural grass under his gloves until he hears, “HIKE!” Clarke pushes off from his stance, shoves the defender on his ass, cuts left after five yards, catches the ball, and firmly places it at his side so he won’t fumble.
“You’re dead!” A Hispanic defender screams, lunging at Clarke but is met with a stiff arm and winds up getting grass shoved into his facemask.
Clarke runs another twelve yards before he’s brought back by two safeties. When Hector helps him to his feet, seeing the white jersey get its first grass stain, “Helluva run, Fast Hands, think you can do it again?”
“Call it!” Clarke says as they await the call when they join the huddle.
Clarke’s double-teamed from the second play going forward, but on the crucial third down and long, the blitz play is busted, allowing Jamal Jefferies, the team’s fastest African American wide receiver, to blow past the defender’s wide-open downfield. Hector sees him waving for the ball and tosses it up, throwing it for more than thirty-five yards. Jamal snatches the ball with his fingertips and runs in for the touchdown. The Brighton sideline and crowd get pumped until after the point-after kick, making it a seven-to-zero game early in the first quarter.
The score remains seven to zero as the first half grinds close to half-time. Both sidelines feel the humidity begin to drop. A few times, the game has paused for Charlie Horses and cramps after plays as Gatorade isn’t cutting it. Harden gets lucky on a first down play when a linebacker tries to tackle the running back of the Hawks, but he falls to the ground holding his calf. The running back takes advantage of the blown tackle and speeds his way to an easy touchdown with seconds left on the clock as defenders block for him down the field. The point-after is blocked, and on the ensuing kickoff, the clock hits triple zeros, and the Grizzly player with the ball goes out of bounds sending the game to half-time and the teams times to collect themselves in the locker room and have the coach help them stretch and get adequately hydrated.
“Boys, you’ve played hard, but you’re going to need to dig deep to grind out a win tonight. Clarke, they’re double teamin’ you. We can use that by making Jamal the inside receiver because they’ve covered him. They can’t stop you both!” Coach Sparks advises and uses the dry-erase board to create a few new plays to move the ball in short spurts. No more play-action passes. The other coach has caught onto the formations. So, time to rest, and then let’s get back to it.”
Using the last five minutes to splash water on their faces or feel the mist from the oversized fan used to help cool the locker room more, the entire team works on sore muscles, and Clarke massages his calves feeling his legs stiff.
When they get back on the field, both teams stretch and get limber for a couple of minutes before they get lined up for Brighton to kick the ball off to open the second half.
Receiving the ball at the five-yard line, the entire Hawks special teams run to the right side of the field, holding the Brighton players from making the tackle with three hold calls not getting seen and called. It takes only ten seconds for Harden to score and go up to thirteen to seven.
Throughout the third quarter, the coach calls run plays. Clarke and Jamal feel stupid lining up as they were told to do and not getting used to any of the pass plays. During the third quarter, Coach Sparks keeps an eye on the field and sees the Harden players beginning to feel exhausted. They breathe hard with tons of grass stains covering their jerseys, looking more green than black or orange.
“Okay, there’s about five minutes left until we enter the fourth quarter. How are you two feeling?” The coach asks, seeing the frustration in Clarke’s and Jamal’s eyes, waiting for their moments to shine.
Jamal speaks up first, “Honestly, coach, I’m getting pissed having to block so we can run the God-dang ball!”
“Yeah, coach, you wanted us to line up differently, but you’ve barely used us to do squat out there.
“Okay, look, we’re startin’ to move the ball pretty good and wearing the defense down. If they’re too winded to run, they can’t keep up with either of you. Get what I’m saying…” he mentions and sees their eyes light up.
A collective, “Ohhhh…” and the coach is caught off guard when the team jumps for joy seeing the punt return after Harden fumbles the ball, and Brighton recovers at the twenty-yard line, “GO, GO, GO! Time to shine, guys!”
As both teams line up, Brighton’s players see how exhausted the defense feels as sweat pours from their faces and hold their hands on their hips before they get lined up. Suddenly, Hector calls an audible “Detroit, Detroit!” and walks up directly behind the center, placing his hands under him. “Blue ninety-two,” he cries out and stomps his right foot to send Jamal in motion, and when he reaches the left side of the formation, he yells, “HIKE!”
With the sounds of pads crunching together and players grunting and fighting for position, Hector drops back, looking at Clarke, and then looks at Jamal; when they crisscross, he tosses the ball, and Clarke dives for it and groans, hitting the ground after he lands in the endzone with the Back Judge throwing his arms up, signaling a touchdown. Clarke gets to his feet, spiking the ball, and ignores feeling winded to yell victoriously.
“AAAHHH! This is our time, bitches!” He sees the coach waving him back over before getting a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, “Oh shit, coming, coach!”
The touchdown gives Brighton a second wind, and the defense quickly stops Harden’s next possession with a takeaway when a linebacker jumps, tipping the ball to himself but is immediately tackled. Back on the field, Jamal doesn’t waste time getting the next score putting Brighton up twenty-one to thirteen.
Sweaty, tired, and defeated, the Harden team shows signs of fatigue. Brighton’s adrenaline picks up steam, and soon the score reflects it when the Grizzlies score twice in back-to-back one-and-done plays, with Clarke quickly running deep without needing to break any tackles. The field continues to get chewed up throughout the fourth quarter as chunks are seen being placed back where it belongs by players, and refs then stomped back where it belongs.
Harden tries to stretch the field with three extended pass plays, trying to save face. The crowd shares their joy on the Brighton side when the Hawks are shut down. The Harden fans shout and boo at the coach with drinks and food tossed on the sidelines. The hometown crowd gets even louder in displeasure when they see Brighton take over on downs and go into victory formation with all the players lined up to protect Hector, about to take a knee and run out the final minute.
Under the bright lights in the early night, the whistles blow, and the game ends with Harden walking away with their heads held low after shaking hands with the Grizzlies. Both teams say, “congratulations,” then march to the locker rooms with the crowds leaving the stands with those from Brighton shouting, “Na, na, na, na, hey-hey, goodbye!”
Inside the locker room, the Brighton players strip, shower, and get back into their clothes before loading the bus. The cool air filling the shower area helps the team begin to feel the after-effects of the game, as some are sore and others notice cuts and abrasions appear on their bodies.
“Let’s go home!” Coach Sparks yells when Clarke is the last player to step onto the bus, and the team stays loud on the way home, feeling confident.