“Harwell!” muttered Joel. “You Bet!” Then he gathered with the others about Dutton to listen to that leader’s last instructions. And at the same moment the east stand broke into cheers as the gallant sons of Yates bounded on to the grass. Back and forth rolled the mighty torrents of sound, meeting in midair, breaking and crashing back in fainter reverberations. They were singing the college songs now, and the merits and virtues of both colleges were being chanted defiantly to the tunes of popular airs. Thousands of feet “tramp-tramped,” keeping time against the stands. The Yates band and the Harwell band were striving, from opposite ends of the field, to drown each other’s strains. And the blue and crimson fluttered and waved, the sun sank lower toward the western horizon, and the shadows crept along the ground.
“There will be just one more score,” predicted the knowing ones as they buttoned their ulsters and overcoats up at the throat and crouched along the side lines, like so many toads. “But who will make it I’m blessed if I know!”
Then Harwell lined up along the fifty-five-yard line, with the ball in their possession, and the south goal behind them. And Yates scattered down the field in front. And the linesmen placed their canes in the turf, the referee and the umpire walked into the field, and the stands grew silent save for the shrill voice of a little freshman on the west stand who had fallen two bars behind in “This is Harwell’s Day,” and needs must finish out while his breath lasted.
“Are you all ready?” asked the referee. There was no reply. Only here and there a foot moved uneasily as weights were thrown forward, and there was a general, almost imperceptible, tightening of nerves and muscles.
And then the whistle blew.
HARWELL VS. YATES—A FAULT AND A REQUITAL.
The kick-off came into Blair’s ready arms, the interference formed quickly, and the full-back sped down the field. One white line passed under foot—another; Joel felt Blair’s hand laid lightly upon his shoulder, and ran as though life itself depended upon getting that precious ball past the third mark. But the Yates ends were upon them. Joel gave the shoulder to one, but the second dived through Kingdon, and the runner came to earth on the twenty-three-yard line, with Joel tugging at him in the hope of advancing the pigskin another foot.
“Line up quickly, fellows!” called Story. The players jumped to their places. “1—9—9!” Joel crept back a bare yard. “1—9—9!”
Kingdon leaped forward, snugged the ball under his arm, and followed by Joel tried to find a hole inside left end. But the hole was not there, and the ball was instantly in the center of a pushing, grinding mass. “Down!” No gain.
Story, worming his way through the jumble, clapped his hands. Chesney was already stooping over the ball. Joel ran to his position, and the quarter threw a rapid glance behind him.