is not elated by the rout of the Allegans. "They are not that bad," he
says. "I mean they were that bad, but they don't have to be. They're big
enough, and they hit hard enough. I wonder what's wrong with them."
season works its way into the subarctic conditions of late fall. By November
snow begins to fall in sharp, grainy squalls, and ice builds up on the streets
and practice fields. One miserable afternoon there is a brief one-sided fight
in the slush of the high school parking lot. A Vicksburg High wrestler who is
just beginning preseason training knocks down a boy who insists that he doesn't
have a first name and a last name but only one name. He is one of a group known
as Hardcores, whose principal distinction and pride is that they hold all
authority in contempt. They keep themselves aloof from study, classroom
discussions, all extracurricular activities and, to the extent that they are
able, school attendance. Especially, they do not take part in athletics.
"A lot of us
probably could play football on a team like this," says the boy who was
knocked down, "but who wants to spend every afternoon running around in
lines with coaches yelling at you? That's like the army, man."
critic of football is Russell Evans, a controversial senior who is short,
stout, wears thick glasses, speaks very rapidly and uses words, phrases and
ideas unlike those of his classmates. He is not fond of athletes, football
players being among his least favorite people. "I have often been their
victim," he says. "Nothing serious, but a lot of petty teasing and
humiliation. Athletes are popular and important now because they are good with
balls. That's all they think about. But they are going to graduate, and the
balls will be taken away from them. They'll be lost. People who have had to
think about other things will be the ones who become important then, and the
athletes will be forgotten."
afternoon practices have been light and casual since Martens made his decision
to come on more softly. This Thursday is a bitter cold one, and in the locker
room Martens promises that his players will be outside only a short time. Rick
Jensen begs off. He has a heavy cold, and he says, "Coach, I'm coughing
skin. It's too cold for me to practice, and it's probably going to be too cold
for me to play tomorrow night."
Earlier in the
season Martens might have challenged him. Now he grins and tells Jensen he is
excused and to stay warm. On Friday night Jensen plays.
All week Jeff
Schutter has been thinking about a particular play to call against Gull Lake on
Friday night. "I knew from the movies and talking with the coaches and
playing them last year that they slant a lot," Jeff says. "I kept
seeing us running a little 55-Isolation, with Rick just going straight out. I
thought it might catch them early before they adjusted."
It does. On the
first play from scrimmage Jeff calls the 55-Iso and Jensen runs 65 yards for a
touchdown. For Jeff it is one of the best moments of the season because his
preconceived plan works so well. Even Jensen, whose style is to cool it in
adversity and triumph, is uncommonly pleased. The 65-yarder was the longest run
of his career. "I couldn't believe it," he says, as he warms his hands
over a charcoal fire on the sidelines. " Mark Brown took the tackle, and
Dale Billington took the end. I gave the halfback a dead leg, and he missed.
After that, Steve Hunt chugged along beside me, and we just strolled
Later in the game
Jensen is involved in an odd incident that displays his football cool more than
the long run. Perhaps just as Schutter had been thinking about Gull Lake,
someone at Gull Lake has been thinking about Vicksburg, thinking that Jensen
was the team's most productive runner, the defensive signal caller, the
stalwart—and thinking, too, about the Vicksburg-Otsego fight earlier, which put
Steve Hunt out of the game. Or perhaps it is a spur-of-the-moment thing. In any
event, after a play has ended, a Gull Lake player comes up behind Jensen and
jumps on his back with hostile intent. Jensen leans over and lets the Gull
Laker slide over his head and land on the ground. He looks down at his
attacker, makes an obscene gesture, turns around, walks away and continues to
run through the Gull Lake line and knock down Gull Lake runners.
In the third
quarter Cree, who again carries the ball only four times, breaks off a 55-yard
touchdown run of his own. It is not as spectacular as Jensen's
first-play-of-the-game touchdown, and it is 10 yards shorter, but again Chip is
there with a bona fide big move of his own. The final score is 13-0.