by Rick Beck

Chapter 5


Mr. Winger tells his U. S. history class, "History is made when the people decide that change is necessary or when the people decide the government is no longer representing them.

When the government is working against the best interests of the people, there will be change. History is made when events overpower tradition."

"One person alone rarely changes the course of history. A few can alert the people to the need for change. When large numbers of people demand change, history can be altered. It can be done peacefully at the ballot box or it can be violent. How violent depending on how resistant those in power decide to be."

"Over six hundred thousand died in the American Civil War. It was Americans fighting Americans. It's called the war of northern aggression in the South. In the North it became seen as a fight for America's soul. Would they allow slavery, forced labor, or were all men truly created equal in the struggle for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

"Regardless of what the two sides were fighting for, the North won and the south was vanquished. Lincoln said in his second inaugural, "...Malice toward none, charity for all."

To heal the nation, Lincoln wanted to put the Civil War behind him. Lincoln was assassinated. Whatever he had in mind for the healing of the nation died with him. For a hundred years black citizens were neither slave nor free."

"This condition remained in place until the people changed it. It didn't take a civil war but people did die for this cause. They died fighting for other people's rights." "Tradition is hard to overcome in some cases and the people need to stay strong if they want to create change."

"This is well recorded history. You can read about it in books galore but there is one more truth about history that you should know. The winners get to write the history. What you read might be slanted by the author's opinion. It's a good idea to take history with a grain of salt and while you're at it, read things that were written by someone on the losing side. It could give you a better perspective."

Mr. Winger, the history teacher, knew history teachers should never make history. Coach Winger knew a football team could make history.

Few football players made history, but many are famous, even adored. Heroes, even those who only play a game, are necessary to inspire others to be heroic.

Coach Winger sat alone in the middle of the bleachers watching his team practice Wednesday afternoon. In particular he watched Bonner move. He was smooth, quick, and he could turn on a dime, making his defense look bad.

The Woodruff game was Saturday and there would be one more full out practice and a light workout Friday to keep his players loose.

They'd leave early enough on Saturday to run a light practice on Woodruff''s field. It was a good idea to allow his players time to acclimate to another team's field. It It helped to settle nerves and the players realized the field was just a football field.

Coach Winger watched as Kronkowski broke free of the offensive line. He ran straight for Bonner. This was what Coach Winger feared. One defender getting loose in the backfield, hitting Bonner head-on. Kronkowski playfully picked Bonner up and swung him around in his arms. That's not how it would go at Woodruff and Coach Winger knew it.

Woodruff constantly had a winning program. They won games and they were reigning champions of the league. A winner did not look favorably on an upstart team coming into their yard and challenging them.

Woodruff would be determined to stop Grant.

Grant could beat Woodruff. Grant's team was better than Woodruff's on paper, but Woodruff had an advantage. They were accustomed to being league champions and for a team to knock them off their pedestal, they'd need to play very good ball. Woodruff wouldn't simply roll over and Woodruff wouldn't allow Bonner to control the backfield the way other teams did.

Bonner knew this would be the toughest game he ever played. It was best to keep it simple and not go out of his way to make Woodruff look bad. They'd only become more determined to win if Bonner used all his weapons to defeat them. In this game Bonner would play conservatively.

If Grant did what it was capable of doing and didn't make any big mistakes, they'd beat Woodruff on their own turf. Doing that meant Grant would be heading for the championship game a week later.

The thought of it made the coach smile.

The evidence was destroyed but the person who sent it was still out there. That was the problem. Grant could play football. Bonner could quarterback. If only the natural forces were allowed to stay in play, it would be okay, win or lose. Coach Winger understood that wasn't the only thing in play. He'd made his decision and he'd rise or fall with it, as would Grant High School's football fortunes.

Coach Winger had checked the football field for unexpected gatherings of reporters and photographers, or worse yet, a contingent of league officials, waiting to put Grant down. Each day as his team went out for practice, the field and the bleachers were empty.

No one cared about Grant's preparations for Woodruff. It eased the coaches' mind but he didn't stop worrying.

Perfection in the regular season, going 8-0, wasn't easy. Woodruff did it on a regular basis, but they'd been the class of the league since the school opened eighteen years before.

Woodruff had the best of everything. Grant was just the poor sister of the rich neighbor. Beating them just once and going to the championship game would make Grant's day for a long time to come.

Grant was ready. There would be no over confidence. This was the game when they'd pull out all the stops and use every play in the play book to make sure they were ready for Woodruff.

They arrived at Woodruff a little after ten Saturday morning. No one was there to greet them, which made Coach Winger feel better.

Grant's football team went immediately to the playing field to warm up and check out the field. Pads and equipment were left on the bus to be retrieved later. For the time being they'd just be at Woodruff. The test of wills would start in less than two hours.

An assistant coach from Woodruff came out to greet Coach Winger. They were acquainted and Grant's team was invited into the cafeteria for a light snack before the game. Coach Winger accepted this show of respect for his team. He'd been playing at Woodruff for years and no one gave him so much as a howdy-do. Woodruff knew they were in for a fight and being polite gave Grant no extra incentive to want to take it out on Woodruff, but any boy could look at the wall of his school and see how many times a team they played beat them. It was incentive enough for Grant's boys.

The fruit, juices, breads, and pastries hit the spot. No one needed to be reminded to eat lightly before a game.

Once Grant was suited up and ready for the game, they returned to their side of the field. The stands ere already starting to fill up. Woodruff had a stadium with seating all around the field. There were light towers at both ends and on each side of the field. Woodruff played night games, but this game was played in the middle of the day.,

Grant fans sat behind their team and there were a lot of Grant students, teachers, and administrators on hand to see if Grant would finish the the regular season 9-0.

The principal, vice-principal, and other administrators came to stand behind the bench as they waited for the game to start. Coach Winger was polite but for the most part silent. He looked around the stadium for any unusual gathering of reporters and photographers, but except for Grant's photographer and Woodruff's photographers and video recording team, no one appeared out of place.

Grant won the coin toss and they would receive the kickoff that started the game. Bonner had been practicing a pass play to open the game with and Coach Winger gave his approval. Once that play was completed, Bonner would go to the running game, and that alone would set Woodruff back on their heels.

Scott ran the kickoff to the thirty-six yard line in Grant territory. Bonner knelt in the huddle for about five seconds. That wasn't long enough to draw up a pass play and so the idea Grant already knew the first play gave them another advantage.

Bonner started his three step drop back, faked to Carlos, stepped forward as three Woodruff linemen ran past him. He threw a pass straight across the fifty yard line and Taylor caught it on the Woodruff forty-seven. He ran for a score. The extra point was good. Grant had taken control of the game. Woodruff would need to play catch up.

It was Grant 7 Woodruff 0.

The Grant fans went wild. Bonner's name was mentioned in a cheer by the Grant Cheerleaders, and Woodruff was less than thrilled.

Grant's defense was fired up. They sacked the Woodruff quarterback on the first play the Eagles ran. Followed by two running plays, Woodruff took the ball from their twenty-five to the thirty-one in three plays.

Grant held Woodruff on their first set of downs.

Bonner went to the ground game. He handed off to Scott, to Carlos, to Scott, and they went from the Grant 32 to the Woodruff 48 in three plays. Grant was controlling both sides of the line and Woodruff wasn't able to interrupt the constant forward movement of the football by Grant.

On first down and on the Woodruff twenty-three yard line toward the end of the first quarter, Bonner dropped back and hit Johnson on the left side of the field and he ran the ball to the Woodruff seven yard line.

On the first down Woodruff held. Grant might have lost half a yard. On the second down Scott ran to the four. On third down Bonner kept Scott and Carlos on either side of him, and he had Tad line up behind him. With three backs in the backfield it gave Woodruff more to think about. They either didn't realize it was Johnson lined up behind Bonner, or it didn't impress them. They lined up in their run defense, and flooded the end zone to protect against a Bonner pass.

Bonner faked to Carlos while doing his three step drop back, handing the ball to Johnson as he ran past the quarterback, following Scott and Carlos into the end zone. If a Woodruff player touched Johnson, no one saw it.

Grant brought their A game and there was plenty of motivation to beat Woodruff.

This once again brought the Grant fans to their feet. There were shouts of, 'Johnson, Johnson, Johnson.'

With three quarters to play it was Grant 14 Woodruff 0.

Bonner was relaxed as he watched the defense give some ground to Woodruff. It was a grinding running game and it took Woodruff all they had to gain ten yards in the three downs they were given. For 6 sets of downs which ate up over eight minutes, Woodruff went from their own twenty-five to the Grant fifteen.

Then, on a broken play that left Woodruff's quarterback holding the ball, he ran into the end zone as Grants defense was keeping the two Eagle backs from getting beyond the line of scrimmage.

It was Grant 14, Woodruff 7, as the half ended.

Woodruff's defense was almost as good as Grant's and the third quarter became a game of defenses. Neither team crossed the fifty yard line in the third quarter. Woodruff knew that if they let Grant score again, with the way Grant's defense was playing, they'd never catch up.

This was the game Coach Winger was expecting. The two defenses were slugging it out.

It was Grant 14, Woodruff 7, when the fourth quarter began. It had been a hard fought game.

Woodruff took the kickoff and stayed on the ground. In five minutes they made it to the Grant forty, where they ran out of steam, but the punt nailed Grant back on its seven yard line. It was the worst starting position for Grant in the game and Woodruff was determined to keep them pinned back deep in their own territory.

This was the kind of start for a drive that allowed a good team to get back into a game. On first down Scott ran to the fifteen. This gave Bonner some running room. He watched the Woodruff defense prepare for another running play. A high school quarterback wouldn't pass this deep in his territory and they were confident they'd continue to stop the run short of a first down.

If it played out that way, Grant would punt from deep on its side of the field and Woodruff might get the ball at midfield. Any kind of run back, they'd be set up for a score.

Bonner nodded to Johnson in the huddle.

His raspy voice was lower more direct and to the point.

"They've been stopping us on the run for the entire second half. Johnson, to the left, when you reach the sideline, cut to the middle of the field. I'll hit you at the thirty. You're the fastest guy on the field, Tad. We need that score to keep Woodruff from getting back into the game. There are only a few minutes left."

What Bonner didn't say was, If the play didn't work, Woodruff would be set up to tie the game. If they did that, Woodruff would believe they could win the game. Bonner hoped to erase any idea that Grant might lose.

When Winger realized what Grant was lining up to do, his initial response was to put his hands up to his head. Woodruff didn't see it but they hadn't watched the Bonner to Johnson railroad all season. If the play didn't work, they were letting Woodruff back in the game.

Coach Winger walked in front of the bench waiting for the snap. Bonner dropped back, faked to Carlos, turned, and then he was moving forward with his arm cocked back.

Faking to the left, where Johnson caught most of Bonner's passes, Bonner redirected his pass straight down the field. The defense was everywhere but anywhere close to Johnson who was running down the middle of the field.

When Johnson stopped running, he stood in the end zone, placing the ball at his feet. The entire Grant Lion team rolled over top of Johnson, knocking him to the turf.

When Johnson stood up, Bonner hugged him, and whistled blew as Grant was penalized for delay of game.

It was the kind of celebration Grant's football teams had only watched other teams have. They understood it would take a miracle for Woodruff to make a comeback now.

Woodruff wasn't accustomed to watching other teams celebrate on their field. They didn't like it and there were five minutes left in the game. Grant might win but Woodruff wasn't going to allow them to win without paying a price.

Woodruff ran one play after another. The quarterback dropped back to pass on third and five. He was sacked by Grant's fired up defense.

Woodruff punted. Under pressure, the ball went off the side of the kicker's foot. Grant got the ball on Woodruff's 40 yard line.

Just before the two minute warning, Bonner took his quick drop and when he went to hand off to Scott, he wasn't there. He'd tripped over Carlos as they moved behind Bonner to take the hand off.

With Grant's offensive line holding, Bonner cocked his arm and sailed a pass over Johnson's right shoulder and into his arms. Johnson knew what to do when a play broke down and Bonner knew where to look for him. Johnson took the ball inside the Woodruff 20 yard line.

The clock continued to run.

On the next play, Woodruff stopped Scott at the line of scrimmage. On second down Woodruff broke through and came after Bonner, who flicked a pass where he thought Johnson would be, and he was.

This time Johnson was tackled by his own players in Woodruff's end zone. When Johnson stood up, expecting Bonner to leap into his arm for what was no doubt the play that cinched the game for Grant, Bonner wasn't there

Johnson saw Scott and Carlos standing back at the old line of scrimmage. They were looking down at Bonner as Coach Winger ran onto the field.

The crowd went silent..

What Johnson hadn't seen, when Bonner launched the short pass to Johnson, one of Woodruff's linebackers was coming around the right side of Grant's line into the open. He had his sites set on Bonner and even seeing the ball leave the quarterback's hand didn't slow the linebacker who was determined to make Bonner pay for his ability to get passes away in tight situations.

Woodruff's defense had been denied for the entire game and while Grant may win, it wouldn't be without cost.

As Bonner followed through with the pass, his arm was extended. The linebacker didn't slow and he hit Bonner where his ribs were exposed.

Grant's quarterback went down hard. Woodruff's linebacker landed on top of him. Then he jumped up to thrust his fist in the air in triumph.

He did what he set out to do.

It was a late hit. Everyone in the stadium witnessed it and there was little doubt why the cheap shot was taken.

Champions don't like to be beaten in their own yard. Even Woodruff fans fell silent, after the vicious hit.

Victory rarely came without paying a price.

Coach Winger didn't hold his head in his hands. He was too busy running to his quarterback. He'd expected this to happen long before it did. With the season so close to ending, he couldn't help but wonder, why now.

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