Brown and Hunt
are back for the Comstock game, but their return is balanced by new losses.
John Dekker, perhaps the strongest and most effective lineman behind Hunt, is
kicked very hard in the thigh. Because of massive hemorrhaging and the fear of
clotting, he is taken to the hospital and kept there most of the next week.
Mike Simmons, the frail but ferocious defensive end, is rapped briskly on the
head. Dazed, he is led back to the bench, where he remains conscious but
befuddled. He insists he can play, but when Dr. Appell asks him whom they are
playing, Simmons cannot think of or say Comstock. "Mike, if you don't know
who you're playing, you can't play," says Dr. Appell.
fair," mumbles Simmons. "That's not a fair question."
straight victories, Vicksburg is ranked the seventh-best Class B team in the
state by the Detroit Free Press. Such recognition is immensely gratifying to
the community, and the high ranking sets up the next game, a big contest in
southern Michigan high school circles. Vicksburg, which is a member of the
Wolverine Conference, will go to Kalamazoo for a non-conference game against
Monsignor Hackett. Hackett, a small Class C school, is the only Catholic high
school in a predominantly Protestant area, and it has an impressive, almost
legendary, reputation in a variety of sports. An inordinate number of its
athletes have gone on to perform well in collegiate, even in professional,
ranks. Because it is a private school, not restricted by school-district
boundaries, Hackett can select ("recruit" is how critical rivals
describe the process) good athletes from a wide area. This year a strapping
265-pounder, who had lived in the Vicksburg school district, is playing on the
Fighting Irish line.
Hackett teams are talented, well coached, pugnacious. Because the school has
had so much success, its prowess tends to be magnified. "The Hackett
mystique is worth three or four points a game," says Martens.
"Everybody worries a little more about them because you know they are going
to be good."
played on a Vicksburg team that beat the Catholic school, but such victories
have been rare and none has occurred in the previous eight seasons. A year ago,
when Vicksburg had been conference co-champions, the Bulldogs were humiliated
by the Fighting Irish. This year Hackett has a line that averages about 210
pounds a man, or 25 pounds per man more than Vicksburg, and also a 210-pound
fullback named Jeff Rubleski, who the week before gained 245 yards against
another Wolverine Conference team, mostly through the center of the line.
morning John Dekker is still in the hospital, but that afternoon he literally
escapes on crutches to come to the Hackett game. Of course, he cannot play.
Mike Simmons has recovered from his hit on the head, but both he and Jeff
Schutter have missed most of the week's practice because of flu. Yet both are
able to play.
The crowd that
fills the stadium in Kalamazoo is large and noisy. In all the sound, the
Vicksburg team, which is not much for collective yelling at the best of times,
goes through its warmups almost in dead silence. Chip Cree tries to pick things
up with some chatter, but he is ignored, and he finally gives up. "We're
down, really down," he mumbles.
fullbacks, Rubleski and Jensen, are game captains and meet with the officials
for the coin toss. Jensen loses and comes back to the bench cursing.
"That————," he says. "I stuck out my hand to shake, and he grabbed
the end of my fingers and tried to crush them to show me how strong he
pregame apprehension, it is Vicksburg which is the most spirited and ferocious
when play begins. In the first few minutes Rubleski carries the ball on three
consecutive plays. Twice he is stopped at the line by Jensen firing in from
big," Jensen says contemptuously. "He's not that hard to take down when
you get to him. It's those blockers. They're really decent. One hits you, then
another, and you have to fight off about three of them before you can get to