“2—8—9!” He placed his hand on the center’s broad back.
“2—8—!” The ball was snapped. Joel darted toward the center, took the leather at a hand pass, crushed it against the pit of his stomach, and followed the left end through a breach in the living wall. Strong hands pushed him on. Then he came bang! against a huge shoulder, was seized by the Yates right half, and thrown. He hugged the ball as the players crashed down upon him.
“Third down,” called the referee. “Three yards to gain.”
“Line up, fellows, line up!” called the impatient Story, and Joel jumped to his feet, upsetting the last man in the pile-up, and scurried back.
“2—9—!” Back sped Blair. Up ran Joel and Kingdon. The line blocked desperately. A streak of brown flew by, and a moment later Joel heard the thud as the full-back’s shoe struck the ball. Then down the field he sped, through the great gap made by the Yates forwards. The Harwell ends were well under the kick and stood waiting grimly beside the Yates full-back as the ball settled to earth. As it thudded against his canvas jacket and as he started to run three pairs of arms closed about him, and he went down in his tracks. The ball lay on Yates’s fifty-three-yard line.
The field streamed up. The big Yates center took the ball. Joel crept up behind the line, his hands on the broad canvas-covered forms in front, dodging back and forth behind Murdoch and Selkirk. “26—57—38—19—!” The, opposing left half started across, took the ball, and then—why, then Joel was at the very bottom of some seven hundred pounds of writhing humanity, trying his best to get his breath, and wondering where the ball was!
“Second down. Three and a half yards to gain.”
Again the lines faced. Joel was crouched close to quarter, obeying that player’s gesture. They were going to try Murdoch again. Joel heard the breathless tones of the Yates quarter as he stooped behind the opposing line.
“A tandem on guard,” whispered Joel to himself. The next moment there was a crash, the man in front of him gave; then Joel and Story, gripping the turf with their toes, braced hard; there was a moment of heaving, panting suspense; then a smothered voice cried “Down!”
“Third down,” cried the referee. “Three and a half yards to gain.”
“Look out for a fake kick,” muttered Story, as Joel fell back. The opposing line was quickly formed, and again the signal was given. The rush line heaved, Joel sprang into the air, settling with a crash against the shoulders of Chesney and Murdoch, who went forward, carrying the defense before them. But the ball was passed, and even as the Yates line broke the thud of leather against leather was heard. Joel scrambled to his feet, assisted by Chesney, and streaked up the field. The ball was overhead, describing a high, short arch. Blair was awaiting it, and Kingdon was behind and to the right of him. Down it came, out shot Blair’s hands, and catching it like a baseball he was off at a jump, Kingdon beside him. Joel swung about, gave a shoulder to an oncoming blue-clad rusher, ran slowly until the two backs were hard behind him, and then dashed on.