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The Best Defense…
By: Mizhowlinmad (HBF), 2010
Quick pick response: Lean (ATSB)
Disclaimer: TAT belongs to SJC and Universal. I'm just borrowing them for a quick 30-second timeout.
The scoreboard was frozen at 17-17. Had been since the end of the third quarter. Now the fourth was slowly ticking away.
Coach Leroy Banks paced the sidelines. Behind him, his team nervously waited, shuffling their cleated feet. It wasn't the custom for the 'Canes to lose. If they lost this game, against their crosstown rival Panthers, he'd get death threats in the best possible case scenario.
He didn't want to think about worst case scenario.
For the fifth time in the last minute or so, he flipped through the pages of his dogeared playbook. The Panthers had been playing cover-two the second half, which meant…
"Ehrlich!" snapped Banks to his offensive coordinator. "What d'ya say we give these suckers a taste of 38-Redhawk?"
The OC rubbed at his chin. For that play, they'd need a specific player. The player in question was currently stationed at the far end of the bench, helmet at his feet, staring into space with a dreamy smile on his face. He was on the end of the bench for a reason. In fact, he was only on the team because of a freakish stream of injuries to the receiving corps.
But dammit if that kid didn't run like an alley cat with its tail on fire.
"OK, Coach," agreed Ehrlich. "Call the play."
"Murphy!" bellowed the coach. "Get your skinny ass over here."
The young man, #47, trotted over holding his helmet. He certainly was skinny, like a greyhound, thought Banks. Lean and mean. Just what he needed for Redhawk. Speed.
"It's Murdock, sir," the young man said with a sheepish grin.
"Whatever," Banks growled. "You know the play?"
He wondered. The kid spent most of his practices looking like he was doing ballet instead of playing football. "Sure do, okey-dokey," Murdock agreed as he put on his 'Canes helmet over his shock of dark hair.
"Get in there and make us proud."
He dashed into the huddle and Banks relayed the signal to Asher, his quarterback. The crowd's roars had died to a hushed murmur. The tension was equally as thick as the humid Texas night air.
"38, left. 38, Redhawk, hut-hut!"
The offensive line met the fierce blitz of the oncoming Panthers. In the pocket, Asher looked to his right, where Nielson was covered by two defensive backs, and then down the field, to where 47 was engaged in a dogfight with another. After a minute, he broke open. Asher launched the ball a good 30 yards downfield.
Murdock soared off the ground, a rocket in flight. He caught the ball between the 4 and the 7 on his dark green jersey, and then, he ran.
His legs were a blur, scarcely meeting the ground at all. With a quick glance over his shoulder, he saw the pursuing Panthers fading, fading…
And then he was in the end zone. Triumphantly, he raced to the goalpost and dumped the pigskin over its crossbar.
"That one's for you, baby!" he hollered, lapsing into a drunken-looking dance in celebration.
But he was the only one. The stadium had gone silent as a graveyard at 3 AM. On the sidelines, his team stood, looking as if they had all been told their mothers had just died. Banks galloped toward him, arms flailing, face red.
"What the HELL?"
It was only then that Murdock realized he stood in his own end zone. The band and cheerleaders at that end began to boo lustily.
He had scored a touchdown for the Panthers.
Banks finally reached him, flushed after the short sprint across the field. "You idiot! What were you thinking?" he began, finishing with the sort of inventive curses he never even used at practice.
Then, it dawned on him. "Redhawk" sounded a lot like…
"Oh, you said, 'Redhawk,' right, Coach?" Murdock ventured, pulling his helmet off. Behind him, the whole of the stadium aside from the few Panthers fans had joined in the chorus of boos. "I thought it was 'Blackhawk,'" he said with a grin.
"You do realize you just cost us this goddamn game?" Banks shouted right in his face.
Murdock shrugged. "Hey, Coach, it's just a game, right?"
Only his unnatural speed and grace saved him as his coach, most of his teammates, and a handful of cheerleaders sped after him to who knows where.
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