Left Guard Gilbert

DiscoverSports & FitnessLeft Guard Gilbert
Left Guard Gilbert

Author

Ralph Henry Barbour

About this book

"Hold up!" Coach Robey, coatless, vestless, hatless, his old flannel trousers held up as by a miracle with the aid of a leather strap scarcely deserving the name of belt, pushed his way through the first squad players. The Brimfield Head Coach was a wiry, medium-sized man of about thirty, with a deeply-tanned face from which sharp blue eyes looked out under whitish lashes that were a shade lighter than his eyebrows and two shades lighter than his sandy hair. As the afternoon was excessively hot, even for the twenty-first day of September and in proximity to Long Island Sound, Mr. George Robey's countenance was bathed in perspiration and the faded blue silk shirt was plastered to his body.

Contents (26)

CHAPTER I
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CHAPTER II
CHAPTER III
CHAPTER IV
CHAPTER V
CHAPTER VI
CHAPTER VII
CHAPTER VIII
CHAPTER IX
CHAPTER X
CHAPTER XI
CHAPTER XII
CHAPTER XIII
CHAPTER XIV
CHAPTER XV
CHAPTER XVI
CHAPTER XVII
CHAPTER XVIII
CHAPTER XIX
CHAPTER XX
CHAPTER XXI
CHAPTER XXII
CHAPTER XXIII
CHAPTER XXIV
CHAPTER XXV
CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER I

THE BOY FROM KANSAS

"Hold up!"

Coach Robey, coatless, vestless, hatless, his old flannel trousers held up as by a miracle with the aid of a leather strap scarcely deserving the name of belt, pushed his way through the first squad players. The Brimfield Head Coach was a wiry, medium-sized man of about thirty, with a deeply-tanned face from which sharp blue eyes looked out under whitish lashes that were a shade lighter than his eyebrows and two shades lighter than his sandy hair. As the afternoon was excessively hot, even for the twenty-first day of September and in proximity to Long Island Sound, Mr. George Robey's countenance was bathed in perspiration and the faded blue silk shirt was plastered to his body.

"That was left half through guard-tackle, wasn't it? Then don't put the ball in your arm, St. Clair. You ought to know better than that. On plays through the line hold it against your stomach with both hands. How long do you think you'd keep that ball in your elbow after you hit the line? Someone would knock it out in about one second! Now try it again and think what you're doing. All right, Carmine. Same play."

The panting and perspiring backs crouched once more, Carmine shrilly called his signals, Thayer and Gafferty plunged against an imaginary foe as Thursby shot the ball back and St. Clair, hugging the pigskin ecstatically with wide-spread fingers, trotted through the hole, stopped, set the ball on the grass and wiped his streaming face with the torn sleeve of a maroon jersey.

"All right," said the coach. "That will do for today. In on the trot, everyone!"

The first squad, exhaling a long, deep sigh of relief as one man, set their faces toward the gymnasium and trotted slowly off, their canvas-clad legs swish-swashing as they met. Coach Robey walked further down the sun-baked field to where the nearer of the remaining four squads was at work.

"Oh, put some pep into it, McPhee!" called the coach as he approached. "You all look as if you were asleep! Come on now! Wake up! Jones, get up there. You're away out of position. That's better. Now then, Quarter! Hold up! What's your down?"

"Third, sir, and four to go."

"All right. Show me what you're going to do with it. Head up, Martin! Look where you're going."

"36—27—43—86!" grunted the quarter-back. "36——"

"Signal!" cried Gordon, at right half.

McPhee straightened, cast a withering look at the half-back, wiped the perspiration from the end of his sun-burnt nose and repeated:

"36—27—43——"

Gordon shifted his feet, and—

"Hold up!" barked the coach. "Gordon, don't give the play away. Shifting your feet like that makes it a cinch for the other fellow. Get your position now and hold it until the ball's passed. All right. Once more, Quarter."

"36—27—43—86!" wailed McPhee. "36—27——"

The pigskin shot into his waiting hands, Gordon leaped forward, took it at a hand-pass and ran out behind his line, left half in advance, turned sharply in and set the ball down.

"First down!" called McPhee. "Sturges over."

"Hold up! Try a forward pass, McPhee. You're on the ten yards and it's third down. Get into this, you ends. Put some pep into it!"

"Signal! Martin back! 37—32—14—71—Hep!" The backs jumped to the left one stride. "37—32——"

Back flew the ball to the full-back, right end shot out and down the field across the mythical last line, the defence surged against the imaginary enemy and Martin, poising the ball at arm's length, threw over the line to Lee.

"All right," commented the coach. "That'll be all for today. Trot all the way in, fellows."

Five minutes later the field was empty of the sixty-odd boys who had reported for the second day's practice and the sun was going down behind the tree-clad hill to the west. In the gymnasium was the sound of rushing water, of many voices and of scraping benches. Mr. Robey wormed his way through the crowded locker-room to where Danny Moore, the trainer, stood in the doorway of the rubbing-room in talk with Jim Morton, this year's manager of the team. Morton was nineteen, tall, thin and benevolent looking behind a pair of rubber-rimmed spectacles.

"Did you put them on the scales, Dan?" asked the coach.

"Sure, the first, second and third, sir. Some of 'em dropped a good three pounds today. By gorry, I feel like I'd dropped that much meself!"

"It certainly is warm. Look here, Jim, is this all we get to work on? How many were out today?"

"Sixty-two, Coach. That's not bad. I suppose there'll be a few more dribble along tomorrow and the next day."

"Well, they look pretty fair, don't you think? Some of the new fellows seem to have ideas of football. All the last year fellows on hand?"

"All but Gilbert. He hasn't shown up. I don't know why, I'm sure."

"Better look him up," said the coach. "Gilbert ought to make a pretty good showing this year, and we aren't any too strong on guards."

"Gilbert rooms with Tim Otis, I think," replied Morton. "Oh, Tim! Tim Otis!"

A light-haired boy of seventeen, very straight, and very pink where an enormous bath-towel failed to cover him, wormed his way to them.

"Say, Tim, what's the matter with Gilbert?" asked Morton. "Isn't he coming out?"

Tim Otis shrugged a pair of broad, lean shoulders. "He hasn't got here yet, Morton. I don't know what's happened. He wrote me two weeks ago that he'd meet me at the station in New York yesterday for the three-fifty-eight, but he wasn't there and I haven't heard a word from him."

"Probably missed his connection," suggested Morton. "He lives out West somewhere, doesn't he?"

"Yes, Osawatomie, Kansas."

"It probably takes a good while to get away from a place with a name like that," said Mr. Robey drily. "Well, when he shows up, Otis, tell him to get a move on if he wants a place."

"Yes, sir, I will. I'm pretty certain he will be along today some time. I wouldn't be surprised if he was here now."

"All right. By the way, Otis, how do you feel at right half? Seem strange to you?"

"No, sir, I don't notice it. I did play right, you know, two years ago on the second. Seems to me it's easier to take the ball from that position, too."

"Well, don't try the fool trick your side-partner did today," said Mr. Robey, smiling. "Putting the ball under your elbow for a line plunge is a fine piece of business for a fellow who's been playing three years!"

Tim laughed. "I guess he did that because it was just practice, sir. He knows a lot better than to do it in scrimmage."

"I hope so. Well, hurry Gilbert along, will you? If he doesn't get out here inside of a few days he won't find much of a welcome, I'm afraid. I'm not going to keep positions open for anyone this year, not with the first game coming along in four days!"

"Don't you worry, Mr. Robey," replied Tim, with a chuckle and a flash of white teeth. "I'll have him out here the first day he shows up, even if I have to lug him all the way. Don't think I'll have to, though, for you couldn't keep Don from playing football unless you tied him up!"

"Nice chap," commented Morton, nodding at Tim as the latter returned to his bench. "Awfully clean-cut sort."

"A fine lad," agreed Danny Moore, and Mr. Robey nodded thoughtfully.

"I don't believe we're going to miss Kendall and Freer as much as I thought," he said after a moment. "Otis looks to me like a fellow who will stand a lot of work and grow on it. Well, I'm going to get a shower and get out of this sweat-box. As soon as you get time, Jim, I wish you'd catalogue the players the way we did last year and let me have the list. You know how Black did it, don't you?"

"Yes, sir. I'll have the list ready for you tomorrow."

"Good! Got a towel I can use, Dan? I haven't brought any yet. Thanks." The coach nodded and sought a place to disrobe. The trainer's gaze followed him until he was lost to sight beyond the throng.

"I wonder will he put it over again this year," he mused.

"Surest thing you know," asserted Morton. "Think I'm going to have the team licked the year I'm manager, Danny? Not so you'd notice it!"

"Well, between you and him," chuckled Danny, "I've no doubt you'll turn out a fine team. Say, he's the lad that can do it, though, now ain't he? Four years he's been at it, and it's fifty-fifty now, ain't it?"

"Yes, we lost the first two years and won last year and the year before. It was Andy Miller's team that started the ball rolling for us. No one could have won those first two years, anyhow, Danny. Robey had to start at the bottom and build up the whole thing. We hadn't been playing football here for several years before that. It takes a couple of years at the least to get a foundation laid. If we win this year we'll have something to boast of. No other team ever beat Claflin three times running."

"Maybe we won't either. I'm hoping we do, though. Still and all, it don't do to win too many times. You get to thinking you can't lose, d'ye see, and the first thing anyone knows you're all shot to pieces. I've seen it happen, me boy."

"Oh, I dare say, Danny, but don't let's start the losing streak until next year. I want to manage a winning team. Well, so long. See about some cooler weather tomorrow, will you?"

"I will so," replied the little trainer gravely. "I'll start arrangements to once."

Meanwhile Tim Otis, again arrayed in grey flannels and a pair of tan, rubber-soled shoes rather the worse for a hard summer, was on his way along the Row to the last of the five buildings set end to end on the brow of the hill. As he swung in between Wendell and Torrence—the gymnasium stood behind Wendell, and, save for the Cottage, as the principal's residence was called, was the only building out of alignment—he saw the entrances to dormitories and Main Hall thronged with youths who evidently preferred the coolness of outdoors to the heat of the rooms, while others were seated on the grass along the walk. It almost seemed that the entire roster of some one hundred and eighty students was before him. He answered many hails, but declined all inducements to tarry, keeping on his way past Main Hall and Hensey until Billings was reached. There he turned in and tramped to the right along the first floor corridor to the open door of Number 6, a room on the back of the building that looked out upon the tennis courts and, beyond, the football and baseball fields. From the fact that no sound came from the room, Tim decided that Don Gilbert had, after all, and in spite of what Tim called a "hunch," failed to arrive. But when he entered his mistake was instantly apparent. A maroon-coloured cushion hurtled toward him, narrowly missing the green shade of the droplight on the study table and, thanks to prompt and instinctive action on the part of Tim, sailed on, serene and unimpeded, into the corridor. Whereupon Tim uttered a savage whoop of mingled joy and vengeance and, traversing the length of the room in four leaps, hurled himself upon the occupant of the window-seat.