The rule at
Vicksburg is that an injured player cannot practice or play until Dr. Lloyd
Appell or another physician has given permission. "There are myths about
coaches playing injured boys or not letting them get medical attention,"
says Appell. "Well, maybe they're not myths in some places, but they are
here. The coaches at Vicksburg are overly cautious if anything. Once in a while
a player or his father will argue that he should play when I don't think it is
in his best interests. With the cooperation of the coaches, we never lose those
have eight or 10 injuries a year that are severe enough so that a boy misses
playing time, but so far, nothing really serious. There are risks in football,
but perhaps not as many as people sometimes think. In my opinion, the chance of
injury is outweighed by the value of the game. Kids may be doing something much
more dangerous on their own—for example, hot-rodding around in cars or on
motorcycles. Don't get me started on the injuries I encounter from
Both Brown and
Hunt dress for the next game, against Paw Paw, and both have medical permission
to play, but Coach Bruce Martens tells the team that Brown will not play,
except to punt, and Hunt will not play at all, "unless we really need
him." He explains, "If we can get by tonight without these people, give
them a chance to heal, we're going to be a lot stronger for the rest of the
talk, Rick Jensen, on his way out the door, passes Hunt and jabs him in the
shoulder with his fist. "What are you? A baby?" he asks softly. Only
the redheaded fullback could or would say such a thing to the big tackle, who
makes only an obscene hand sign in return. It is a passage between the coequal
baron-studs of Vicksburg High School. Also, it is an odd, private gesture of
sympathy, or at least as close to one as Rick Jensen can make.
Martens makes his
decision to hold out Hunt and Brown partly because pre-game reports say that
Paw Paw is a relatively weak team, which proves to be correct. Vicksburg wins
12-0, though not very stylishly. While he is again a leading ballcarrier and
makes or assists on 13 tackles, Jensen, the purist, feels his play was mediocre
at best. "We figured we should win and never did get up," he says.
"We almost blew it." The consensus among players and coaches is that
while they were playing Paw Paw they were still savoring the spectacular win
over South Haven.
During the first
two games Randi Noel, the speedy end, has caught only three passes, a situation
he finds deplorable. He is very loud in the locker room about how things are
not going to improve unless Quarterback Jeff Schutter takes some vitamin pills
or does something so he can start throwing long. Noel suggests maybe he should
wait until Jeff throws and then overtake the ball in midair. Randi is a comic,
and he can get away with his comments because no matter what he says, he says
it with a laugh. Also, though he likes to pose as a hard guy, like Steve Hunt
and Rick Jensen, there is nothing mean or unpleasant in his comments.
Schutter is not
particularly concerned about Noel's needling. He and Randi have known each
other a long time, and Jeff has a strong hold on his own confidence. "Randi
probably wouldn't be satisfied with Ken Stabler throwing to him," says
Jeff. "Actually, I'm feeling better about my passing. I guess I'll never
throw real long, but it hasn't been that bad. I'm more disappointed in how I've
been playing defense. [He is a halfback.] I'm waiting too long. not reacting
quickly. Part of it is, I'm not concentrating. I'm thinking about the last
series we ran, what we should run next time we get the ball."
very responsible, big on self-analysis and self-improvement, Jeff Schutter is
also, surprisingly, very superstitious, at least about football. Though he has
a heavy beard, he does not shave from Wednesday until Saturday after the game.
On Thursday night he sleeps with his dog. He wears the same pair of pants every
Friday and walks the same route between school and his house. He always eats
stew as his pregame meal. "I'm sick of stew," he says, "but it's
lucky, and I have to eat something."
Whether it is the
stew or superstition, Jeff has his first big night in Vicksburg's third game, a
37-24 win over Comstock. He passes for more than 100 yards, completes nine of
14 and wins the offensive-player-of-the-game award. One of the passes is
spectacular. On the run, just as he is about to be tackled, Jeff loops the ball
to Mark Brown, who makes a leaping catch and then carries the ball in for a
36-yard touchdown play. The quarterback also hits Randi Noel twice, although
this is not enough to completely satisfy the wide receiver.
Cree and Jensen
continue their unofficial, but generally recognized, competition. As usual,
Jensen has a shade the better of it in terms of performance and glory, but
Cree, playing his best game of the year, outgains Jensen. Twenty of his yards
come on a flashy touchdown run on the third play from scrimmage. Jensen later
scores twice and is named defensive player of the game for his performance at