Busted Axle Road
Chapter 78

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

It was noisy in the locker room. Everybody was up, in high spirits. Josh peeled out of the muddy uniform and threw it in the laundry bin, then sat down on the bench in front of his locker and slowly took off the pads, savoring the moment.

There was a crush of activity in the locker room, as guys got out of football gear, headed for the shower, and got dressed. Many of the guys had dates waiting outside the locker room, and the pizza joint would be full.

Josh knew that nobody was waiting for him. He'd already seen his folks, and they had told him that they'd meet him at home. So, he mostly sat in front of the locker, enjoying the memory, as a lot of the other guys hurried to get cleaned up.

"Hey, Stud," he heard Danny say. "You're looking like you've got your belly dragging, and if anyone ought to be walking on air, you ought to be."

"Man, I don't believe it," Josh said. "I mean, I know it happened, but I just don't believe it."

The Spearfish Lake Marlins had a five-year losing streak in the season opener with the Coldwater Icebergs. Once upon a time, when the schools were in the same league, the game had come later in the season, and it had been the grudge match of the season. Then, Coldwater had merged with a small school district, and it booted them into the next sports class. Since it was now a bigger school, the game had been moved up to become the traditional season opener. Coldwater was enough bigger, now, that the Marlins usually had a tough time handling them, unless they had a really hot team.

Both teams had been pretty much unable to move the ball against a tough defense, and at the end of the third, the score was six to three, with the Marlins on the short end. The Marlin's only score had come on a field goal that wasn't intended to be a field goal, just a punt, but somehow, the punter had gotten a really good kick off, and it went farther and straighter than he'd expected.

Most of the game had been buck it into the line three times and kick, buck it into the line three times and kick, for both teams, and by the time the third quarter was winding down, both teams were getting a little tired when the kicking teams had gone out again. The Coldwater kicker got a really good kick off; it bounced near the ten yard line, right in front of Josh, but died out.

It was clear to Josh that it wasn't going into the end zone, so rather than to have to start from the two, he picked the ball up and and tried to run it out. There was an Iceberg blocker right at hand, but somehow, Josh was able to get around him. He cut to the left, still behind the ten, found the field filled with white, and cut back to the right, where things seemed a little more open. Somehow, he evaded another tackle, and one of the guys threw a block on another potential tackler -- and all of a sudden the field was open, there was running room, and Josh had his throttle in Run-8, heading for the far goal line, the field strung out with blue and gold and white behind him, the Spearfish Lake crowd on their feet, yelling "Go! Go!".

There was only one potential problem left, right on Josh's heels, but somehow, Danny managed to come out of nowhere to get throw a tremendous block. There was no white within ten yards when Josh crossed the goal line.

It was the first touchdown Josh had scored since seventh grade football, despite running into the line an awful lot over the last few years.

The extra point was good, but the game wasn't really over until the end of the fourth, when a big Marlin defense managed to hold the line on fourth and goal, with four seconds to go. The quarterback took the snap and went down with the ball, and heart rates in the Spearfish Lake stands started to get back toward normal.

There were a lot of high fives, and a lot of congratulations from the crowd, before the team was able to get back to the relative quiet of the locker room for a few minutes, before what would obviously be a night of celebration.

"Who knows," Danny said. "You might even get to start next week."

"That'd be nice," Josh said.

"Hey guy," Danny said. "You sure don't seem like the football hero, the guy that saved the day. What the hell is the matter."

"Nothing's the matter," Josh said. "I guess I just wish Amy had been here to see that. There's going to be a lot of fun tonight, and it sure would be nice for you and me to take Amy and Marsha, and go out and party."

"Well, it's not going to happen," Danny said. "You got to make the best of it."

"Yeah," Josh said, "But it would still be nice."

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