Martin predicted victory for Kirkwood's underclassmen. "Before we came over here, I told them, 'Promise me you are going to win back the Bell.' And they looked me in the eye and promised they would. And I believe it."
Martin and his teammates, all of them in their white-and-red jerseys, formed a raucous cheering section that moved up and down the field with the action, bellowing encouragement to their proxies through a giant white plastic cone. On the Webster side of the field, a few of the varsity Statesmen watched the action, with a comparative lack of interest. Darrell Jackson tossed a football casually with a teammate. They had used the field all morning to practice for their big Saturday game. They looked like varsity players forced to attend a jayvee game.
Coach Wade had called it days before: Kirkwood had all the passion for this game. Football students, take note—in the contest between desire and preparation, desire often wins.
Kirkwood dominated from the start. A tall, fast freshman named Jeremy Maclin, whom Webster had never seen before, carried the ball on nearly every play. Lining up in a single wing, he would catch the snap from center and just take off—left, right or up the middle. Webster couldn't stop him. With his long legs and quick cuts, Jeremy seemed to grow in stature with every snap. On Kirkwood's first two possessions he marched his team upfield for touchdowns. By the end of the first quarter the score was Jeremy Maclin 14, Webster 0.
Webster pulled together and kept him from scoring in the second quarter. Coach Kirksey laid into his players at halftime. They weren't playing with discipline! They were forgetting their assignments! The ends were failing to contain! "And the defensive line," Kirksey said, "you haven't shown me nothin'! Nothin'!"
In the second half one of Jeremy's long, skinny legs got hurt. Stripped of his pads and helmet, seated on the bench with the painful limb stretched out in front of him, tears streaming down his cheeks, Webster's nemesis was revealed to be a baby-faced 14-year-old boy. "Can you bend it?" the Kirkwood trainer asked.
"No!" said Jeremy. "It hurts too much!"
"Is your mom here?" one of the coaches asked.
"No, she had to work," said Jeremy. And his father lives in Florida, so the Kirkwood star sat by himself, a dripping bag of ice taped to his knee.
"It's just a bruise," said the trainer, looking back at the boy over his shoulder. "He'll feel better once he calms down."