Chapiter Four: Going Deep
“Okay, Ladies. Listen up. We’ve got a whole new offence this and there are a number of plays we’re got to learn.” Coach Johnson almost sounded enthusiastic.
“You mean, Coach, we got more than the three plays we ran last year?” asked Scottie.
“Scottie, you know we had more than three plays last year.”
“In the playbook, maybe, Coach. But I only remember running three: First down run up the middle for two yards. Second down run off-tackle for one yard. Third down punt. Unless you’re counting the big double reverse trick play for the usual loss of ten.” he paused. “If we hung on to the ball.”
Coach Johnson stared Scottie quiet. Then he looked up at the hills that surrounded the playing field. With hills like that L.B.S.S. should have had a good cross-country team, if they had had a team at all. Scottie got the message and shut up.
“We’ve got a whole new set of passing patterns that the receivers are going to have to learn.” That news was greeted with a chorus of ‘yeah right’, ‘dream on’ and ‘whatever’ . Someone even said “don’t be a TQ, Coach.” Not knowing what that meant, Coach ignored it. The scepticism was merited . The Bengals’ passing attack was pretty much non existed.
“I hope none of the patterns go for more than five yards.” said Steve, taking over from Scottie. “Cooper can’t throw any farther than that.”
“That’s not true!” last year’s starting quarterback defended himself.
“Focus, please, ladies.” pleaded Coach.
“I had a 75% completion rate.” Cooper continued.
“You can’t count interceptions.” said Scottie, who decided he had been quiet enough.
“Enough! Cooper, Doornedorp, Mitchell. Five hills each. The rest of you, here are the new patterns you have to learn.” He took out a white board and started to draw arrows going across and up and down. It was all basic stuff that they should already have learnt. But the feeling had been why bother learning things that they were never going to use (not unlike their feeling toward French or math) . So hapless was the offence that few passing plays ever went off as planned. First off the linemen had to block well enough so the quarterback had time to find his receiver and throw the ball. Usually, as Cooper looked down field the next thing he saw was blades of grass after a Knight or an Eagles defensive tackle had driven him into the ground. If he managed to stay on his feet long enough to get rid of the ball, he wound whip it with all his force at the head of the receiver. Having a projectile rocketing toward your head usually turns on all the prehistoric survival instincts handed down from our ancestors. Bengal receivers were known more for their ability to duck and bat balls away than for their ability to actually catch them. A typical passing play involved the receiver ducking and an unsuspecting defensive player getting hit by the ball. The better ones had the reflexes to intercept the ball. The best passing play last year (in terms of yards gained and laughter created) came when Cooper threw the ball at Herman, an exchange student from Germany, who could think of nothing else to do but head the ball back soccer style. Skates had just picked himself off the ground when the ball landed in his hands. After the initial shock of suddenly becoming a receiver wore off, Skates raced down the field for a good forty yards. His career as a receiver ended when he tripped on the ten -yard line.
Why was this year going to be different? Coach Travis Kidd didn’t come alone. When he transferred from Chevalier he brought his star quarterback with him. Lane Oakwood had be raised to be a quarterback. His dad, Duane, had been a quarterback too, though not a very good one. His son was going to be one too. He had had Lane start school a year late so he would be that much older and bigger than the other kids when he was in high school. Lane had been taught to throw a spiral when he was three, the footwork of dropping back into the pocket when he was four, the pump fake when he was five. He could spell the names of passing patterns before he could spell his own name. Summers were spent at quarterback camp in places like Ohio, Oklahoma and Florida. By the time he hit Chevalier he could react to any defence the team showed. When there wasn’t an open receiver-and that wasn’t often- he could tuck the ball under his arm and run. He was the leading rusher on any team he played as well as the leading passer in any league. If he could have figured out how to throw a ball to himself, he would have probably been the leading receiver too. As it was he was credited with throwing and receiving a touchdown pass. In one game against L.B.S.S. last year he caught a ball that a Bengal lineman had batted down and ran it in for a score. But somehow doing it against L.B.S.S. made it seem less important.
When Coach Kidd accepted the job at L.B.S.S. he knew Lane had to come with him if he was going to have any chance at turning the Bengal program around. The problem with that was the league was pretty strict about athletes changing schools. There were basically two reasons that were acceptable. Being recruited wasn’t one of them. You had to have moved into the area of the new school. Duane Oakwood wasn’t going to sell his house on Twelve -mile Lake . He wasn’t sure about Lane changing schools anyway. As much as he respected Coach Kidd’s opinion, it just didn’t seem to make sense. But Coach Kidd had argued that there wasn’t anything left to accomplished at Chevalier. On the other hand being the leader of a program which turned itself around 360 would cement his reputation as a go-to-guy. As good as he was, getting a scholarship at a top American college was not going to be easy. He needed something extra.
The other way to make Lane a Bengal was to find an academic reason to change schools. If Kidd could find a program or even a single course that Lord Byron offered that Chevalier didn’t, then he could justify the transfer. He poured over the course booklets of both schools. It was pretty hard finding anything original at L.B.S.S. But eventually he found an advanced level modern dance course. Chevalier didn’t have any dance courses at all. The former dance studio had been converted into a weight room years ago.
It took some arm twisting to get Lane into the course. The teacher, Irma Cassis, saw herself as the next Isadora Duncan minus the scarf. She took dance seriously. She was only teaching dance until her own career took off. The fact that her career wasn’t likely to take off any time soon escaped her totally. But why was this jock without the proper prerequisite trying to get into her elite class? These were girls who had been taking dance since before kindergarten.
Kidd put forward a good argument. There were many parallels between the position of quarterback and the art of the dance. Timing, rhythm and footwork were all necessary elements of both. One could argue, he said and he did actually use the word ‘one’ that her girls were the greatest athletes in the school. Lane could really learn a lot from them.
She bought. She allowed Lane into the class without the necessary prerequisite. With that the league allowed the transfer. What did Lane think about being in the class? Coach Kidd would tell him later. There was no point in bothering him with academic details. After all the class wasn’t till next semester. By then football season would be over. Who knows, Lane, being a fifth year student already had most of the credits he needed, would he even still be at L.B.S.S. come January?