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Otterman won't say whether the situation has cost his team any victories, but he points out that the absence of goalposts on the practice field caused him to shelve field goal attempts and PATs for the season. And the first time his team lined up on a real football field this fall, Otterman had to scream frantically for his linemen to spread out. Having gotten used to playing shoulder-to-shoulder on their narrow plot at home, they were poised in the middle of the field like inseparable sextuplets.
"It's unbelievable what these kids have gone through to play football," says line coach Weldon Kowena. "You have to admire them for sticking it out."
In October an open meeting was held at the school to address the stadium issue. Predictably, no one accepted the blame for its disintegration. Bill McConnell, the Phoenix area facility manager for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), said his office would send Congress a $300,000 proposal to, among other things, restore the stadium turf and install a fence and irrigation system, but he said it would be futile to ask for lawn mowers or toilets when other Indian facilities had pressing needs of their own. The next night, at the Alchesey game, Hopi tribal chairman Ivan Sidney expressed skepticism about the BIA's proposal. "What you're hearing," he said, "is the typical government answer: 'It's our responsibility, but we don't have the money.' " Sidney proposed, instead, a scheme in which the tribe would finance the field repairs by "selling" small squares of turf to individual Hopis. However, like the BIA official, Sidney could not promise that the field would be repaired in time for the 1990 football season. "There are obstacles," he admitted, "but we are going to make it. All we want is a helping hand, not handouts."
The game itself seemed an antidote to the depressing debate over purposes and means. Hopi High trailed the Apache team 12-6 at halftime, but Otterman and his assistants gathered the team in the far end zone and threw a few logs on the motivational fire. The players huddled and put their hands together, chanting "Nahoungvitoat'a, "a Hopi expression that, roughly translated, means "Pride, push it"—and ran out for the second half.
One long Hopi drive stalled at the goal line, but the Bruins' luck changed with 1:56 left in the third quarter, when an underthrown Huma pass bounced off a defender and into the hands of wide receiver Clifford Nodman for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter Huma hit wide receiver Gary Yoyokie Jr. for another touchdown, putting the Bruins up by 18-12.
For the rest of the game, Otterman whipped up his players and the Hopi fans behind the bench. The players on the sidelines clapped their hands and chanted. "DEE-fense! DEE-fense!" The parents stomped their feet on the aluminum stands, prompted by Otterman's arm waving, and raised their voices to inspire the boys on the field. And when the last seconds ran off the clock and the Hopis had won. their exuberance as they leaped and hugged each other seemed no less genuine than that in any other small American town, where Friday nights in the fall have meant football for a lot longer than three years.
"We're under a microscope because of what happened here the last two years," Otterman said later. "These people are just waiting to say, "Football is bad, we don't want it.' And maybe they're right, I really don't know. I don't think the Hopis knew what they were getting into."
Neither did Otterman, of course. Life on the reservation is so removed from the city world he left behind in Little Rock, Ark.—where he worked as a computer specialist—that even football seems, at times, to be overwhelmed by the desert and the sky. When Hopi High played at Red Mesa last month, the moon and a distant fog conspired to produce a weird light that Otterman had never seen before. "It kind of looked," he says, "like milk running down off the mesa, the way the light was hitting it."
A week later, the Bruin season ended on a less transcendental note. St. John's. a non-Indian school 175 miles southeast of Hopi High, crushed Hopi High 56-0. Otterman and his assistants resigned, citing a lack of community support for the football program. The activities bus, which had transported players to their homes after practice, lost its funding. And there was no money to repair football equipment.
Otterman, who also coaches the basketball team, seemed grateful to be leaving the dusty practice field for the comfortable confines of Hopi High's modern gymnasium. "The kids understand basketball, and they like it," he says. "Hopi basketball doesn't present as many problems."