- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Gordon's field, called Longhorn Stadium, might be the finest six-man facility in all the world. It has metal bleachers with enough room to seat 2,000 and a field house under construction that promises to be as good as any at small-town schools that play 11-man. The current field house is a little metal building divided into two spaces: The varsity dressing room, the weight room, the laundry room and the showers occupy one area, and the smaller jayvee dressing room occupies the other. Campbell himself made the lockers. Visiting teams suit up in the jayvee room, and that's where the Zephyr boys congregate upon arriving at Gordon.
During the jayvee game the varsity players sit on benches and in the grass in front of the field house. Not five feet away stand Leven and other members of the Gordon team, but neither side speaks to the other. The players do, however, share whispered observations with teammates.
The Gordon boys aren't all the Zephyr players talk about. They rate the Gordon girls, giving Stacie and Terra high marks. And they can't get over the bleachers, the field house going up, the black rubber track encircling the field. This is big-time. Their place back home is pretty primitive, almost an embarrassment, but typical of most six-man schools. Zephyr's playing field abuts a pasture, where a rancher used to keep several head of buffalo. There are no metal bleachers at Zephyr, only eight long steps of cement in a small hillside.
NIGHT IS STARTING TO FALL AND WITH IT comes the smell of barbecue commingled with one of mosquito repellent. It is quite a beautiful thing, this night. It is 1996 and 1946. It is today and yesterday and what you hope tomorrow will be. And it is a few other things besides.
It's a Gordon spirit leader dressed up in a longhorn costume, and it's little kids playing rough-and-tumble behind the seats, and it's the hills all around colored a mix of pewter and blue, and it's a radio tower way off in the distance beating red lights in the gloaming. It's good old boys in cowboy hats and Wrangler jeans and big-buckled belts talking a language that no untrained ear can make out. It's the U.S. flag hardly stirring over by the scoreboard and a knot of nervous daddies standing on the sidelines, following the movement of the ball. It's all the mamas, too, wincing at the hits, laughing to show they aren't afraid. And it's a long train roaring through town just as Gordon's Chris Chamberlain scoops up a fumble and runs it 25 yards for the game's first score. It's the endless beauty of a night in Texas when nothing happens in town but a six-man football game.
On the field both Bufe and Campbell call plays from the sideline, but given the chaotic look of things, the boys could be drawing diagrams in the dirt. There is a reckless quality to the action that makes it seem as if anything is possible, that keeps your jaw slack from start to finish. Up and down the field the boys go, playing what amounts to a glorified version of sandlot football, delivering blows that smack like firecrackers. "We aren't exactly performing like ourselves tonight," Campbell says at halftime, though his team leads 14-8.
In pads Leven looks like a pro, but he's hardly a factor. In the end it's Kostiha and Sizemore who prove to be as good as their hype. Kostiha completes 8 of 15 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown, Sizemore runs for three second-half touchdowns, and the Longhorns roll 34-8.
The Zephyr boys take their pads off, put them in the back of the pickup and climb into the bus. They sit steaming in the dark with their wet uniform pants and undershirts still on and with mud clinging to their cleats. "What were they, Number 1 in the world or something?" says Todd Jordan, a senior wide receiver. "We'll see them again. We'll be ready for them when the playoffs come around."
After the Zephyr bus leaves, Campbell hangs around the stadium for a while accepting congratulations from the proud people of Gordon. Soon the lights go out, and Campbell is a lone figure moving through the night. He swats a mosquito and looks up at the stars and seems altogether pleased. "Well," he says in a voice gone hoarse from yelling, "I guess I'll go home now and pop a top and relax a little. Anybody want to join me, they're welcome."