H. Irving Hancock.

The High School Captain of the Team Dick & Co. Leading the Athletic Vanguard online

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chums would "drag down" the football team and its fine traditions
from past years.

But the eleven, mainly under Dick and under Dave's captaincy in
two fierce gridiron battles, had gone right along winning games.

The last three battles had been fought out to a successful finish
in November. There now remained only the Thanksgiving Day game
to complete the season.

By all traditions each football team in the country strives to
have its biggest fight take place on Thanksgiving Day. By another
tradition, every team seeks to have this game take place on the
home grounds.

In the latter respect Gridley lost this year. The game, which
was against Fordham High School, was scheduled to take place at
Fordham.

Enthusiasm, however, was at top notch. Citizens hired the Gridley
Band to go along with the young men and help out on noise. A
special train in two sections was chartered, for some seven
hundred Gridleyites had voted in favor of an evening dinner on
Thanksgiving Day; they were going along to see the game.

Fordham had lost two games, against exceptionally strong teams,
earlier in the season, but had of late a fine record. Fordham
had dropped several of its original players, putting in heavier
or better men, and a new coach had been employed. The Fordham
boys were now believed to be able to put up a strenuous game.

"I hope you're going to win, Prescott," said Mr. Macey,
meeting Dick on the street one afternoon not long before Thanksgiving.

"Have you any doubts, sir?" smiled the captain of the Gridley
team.

"Well, you see, Fordham was my native town. I run down there
often, and I know a good deal of what's going on there. Fordham's
second coach has attended the last two games you played, and he
has been stealing all your points that he could get."

"He has, eh?" muttered Prescott. "That's news to me. Oh, well,
it's legitimate to learn all you can about another team's play."

"From the reports Fordham has of your play the young men over
in that town are certain that they're enough better to be able
to bring your scalps into camp."

"Perhaps they'll do it," laughed Dick pleasantly. "We'll admit
that we're about due for a walloping whenever the crowd comes
along that can do it."

"I am only telling you what I hear from Fordham," continued Mr.
Macey.

"And I'm glad you did, sir. We'll try to turn the laugh on Fordham."

"Then you think you can beat 'em?"

"No, sir. We never think we can. We always know that we can!
That's the Gridley way - -the Gridley spirit. We always win our
battles before we go into them, Mr. Macey. We make up our minds
that we can't and won't be beaten. It isn't just brag, though.
We base all our positiveness on the way that we stick to our
training and coaching, and on our discipline. Mr. Macey, this
is the third year that I've been playing on different Gridley
High School teams. I remember a tie game, but no defeats."

"I guess Fordham will find it a hard enough proposition to down
you young men," remarked Mr. Macey.

"They're going to discover, sir, that they simply can't do it.
Gridley never goes onto any field to get beaten."

"Und dot isn't brag, neider," broke in a man who had halted to
listen. "Ven dese young men pack deir togs to go away, dey pack
der winning score in der bag, too. Ach! Don't I know dot? Don't
I make mineself young vonce more by following dese young athletes
about?"

Herr Schimmelpodt looked utterly shocked that anyone should think
it possible for another High School eleven to take a game from
Gridley.

Dick soon encountered Dave and told him the news he had gleaned
from Mr. Macey.

"Been sending their second coach over to watch our play, have
they?" laughed Darrin softly. "That seems to show how much they
fear us in Fordham."

"I believe we are going to have a stiff game," muttered Prescott.
"Hallam Heights and Fordham are the only two teams that think
enough of the game to hire two coaches."

"Well, we have Hallam's scalp dangling down at the gym.," laughed
Dave Darrin.

"And we'll have Fordham's in the same way," predicted Dick confidently.

It barely occurred to the young captain of the team to wonder
what it would mean for him if the game to Fordham should be lost.
Dick would be the first captain in years who had lost a football
game for Gridley. It would be a mean record to take out of High
School life. But Dick gave no thought to such a possibility.

"Of course we're going to wallop Fordham," he thought. "I wish
only one thing. I'd like to see the Fordhams play through a stiff
game just once."

It was too late, however, to give any real thought to this, for
Fordham's next and last game of the season was to be the one with
Gridley.

"Are you girls going to the game?" asked Dick, when he and his
chum met Laura Bentley and Belle Meade before the post office.

"Haven't you heard what the girls are doing, Dick?" questioned
Laura, looking at him in some surprise.

"I have heard that a lot of the girls are going to the game."

"Just forty-two of us, to be exact," Laura continued. "We girls
and our chaperons are to have one car in the first section. You
see, we've arranged to go right along with the team. We have
our seats all together at Fordham, too."

"My, what a lot of noise forty-two girls can make in a moment
of enthusiasm!" murmured Dave.

"We can, if you give us any excuse," advanced Belle.

"Oh, we'll give you excuse enough. See to it that you keep the
noise up to the grade of our playing."

"Mr. Confident!" teased Belle.

"Why, you know, as well as we do, that we'll come home with Fordham's
scalp!" retorted, Darrin.

"You've heard some of the talk about Fordham's confidence in winning,
haven't you?" asked Laura, a bit anxiously.

"Yes," nodded Dick. "But that doesn't mean anything. You know
the Gridley record, the Gridley spirit and confidence."

"Still," objected Belle, "one side has to lose, and the Fordham
boys have all the stuff ready to light bonfires on Thanksgiving
night."

"Have you any particular friends over in Fordham?" asked Dave
Darrin, with a sudden swift, significant look.

"No, I haven't," retorted Belle hastily. "And I hope, with all
my heart, that Gridley gains the only points that are allowed.
Yet, sometimes, so much confidence all the while seems just a
bit alarming."

"I won't say another word, then, until after the game," promised
Darrin meekly.

"And then - - -?"

"Oh, I'll turn half girl, and say 'I told you so,'" mimicked
Dave good-humoredly.

It would have been hard to find anyone in Gridley who would have
said openly that he expected the home boys to be beaten; but there
were many who knew that they were more than a bit anxious. Before
the game, anyway, Fordham's brag was just as good as Gridley brag.

"Won't you be glad, anyway, when the Thanksgiving game is over?"
asked Laura.

"Yes, and no," smiled Prescott seriously. "When I come back from
Fordham I shall know that I have captained my last game on a High
School team. That tells me that I am getting along in life - -that
I am growing old, and shall soon have to think of much more serious
things. But, honestly, I hate awfully to think of all these grand
old High School days coming to an end. I mustn't think too much
about it until after the game. It makes me just a bit blue."

"Won't you be captain of the basket ball team this winter?" asked
Laura quickly.

"No; I can't take everything. Hudson will probably head the basket
ball team."

"Why, I heard that you were going in hard for basket ball."

"So I am. Mr. Morton is so busy, with the new evening training
classes, that he has asked me to be second coach to the basket
ball crowd. I'll undoubtedly do that."

"Oh, then you'll still be leading the athletic vanguard at the
High School," murmured Laura, and, somehow, there was a note of
contentment in her voice.

"I shall be, until I'm through with the High School," Prescott
answered. "But think - -just think - -how soon that will come
around for all of us!"




CHAPTER XIV

Fordham Plays a Slugging Game


For half an hour before the first section of the special pulled
out, the Gridley Band played its liveliest tunes. A part of the
time the band played accompaniment to the school airs, which the
crowd took up with lively spirit.

There is a peculiar enthusiasm which attaches to the Thanksgiving
Day game. This is due partly to the extra holiday spirit of the
affair. Then, too, there is the high tension that precedes the
last game of the season.

With a team that has won every game to that point, yet often with
great difficulty, the tension of spirits is even higher.

As the first section of the special rolled in at the railway station
the part of the crowd that was "going" began to break up into
groups headed for the different parts of the train.

Herr Schimmelpodt went, of course, to the car that carried the
team. The boys wouldn't have been satisfied to start or to travel
without him. The big German had come to be the mascot of Gridley
High School.

Just before the train started Herr Schimmelpodt waddled out to
the rear platform of the car.

In his right hand he brandished a massive cane to which the Gridley
High School colors were secured.

"Now, listen," he bellowed out. "Ve come back our scalps not
wigs! You hear dot, alretty?"

While the cheering was still going on, and while the band was
crashing out music, the first section pulled out, making room
for the second section.

A run of a little more than an hour at good speed, and with no
way stops, brought the Gridley invading forces to Fordham.

At the depot, the local team's second coach awaited the players.
He had two stages at hand, into which the team and subs piled.
A wagon followed, carrying the kits of the Gridley boys. There
were two more stages for the band. All the other travelers had
to depend on the street-car service.

Finding the stages rather crowded, Dick nudged Darrin, then made
for the kit wagon.

"I really believe we'll have more comfort, Dave," proposed Prescott,
"if we get aboard this rig and ride on top of the tog bags."

The suggestion was carried out at once.

"I'll drive along fast, if you want," proposed the driver, "and
get the togs down to the grounds ahead of your team."

"If you please," nodded Dick. "Our boys will want everything
ready when they reach the grounds."

So the two chums were quickly carried beyond the noise and confusion.
A few minutes later the wagon turned in at the Fordham Athletic
grounds.

The Fordham High School boys were out in the field, practicing.
As seen in their padded togs they were an extra-bulky looking
lot.

"Great Scott!" grunted Darrin, half disgustedly. "Each one of
those Fordham fellows must weigh close to a ton."

"The more weight the less speed, anyway," laughed Dick good-humoredly.

"And, look! I wonder how old some of those fellows are," continued
Darrin. "I wonder if, in this town, men wait until they've made
their fortunes and retired, before they enter High School. Why,
some of these Fordham fellows must have voted for president the
last two times."

"Hardly as bad as that, I guess," smiled Prescott. "Still, these
Fordham boys do look more like a college eleven than a High School
crowd."

Dave continued to gaze over at the home team, and to scowl, until
the wagon was halted before dressing quarters. Here the teamster
and another man made short work of carrying in all the tog-bags.

A few minutes later the other fellows arrived.

"Say, which team is it we're fighting to-day?" demanded Hudson.
"Harvard, or Yale?"

There was general grumbling comment.

"I think," insisted Tom Reade, "that the Fordham team wouldn't
like to stand a searching hunt into the eligibility of some of
their players."

"They've surely brought in some who are not regular, fair-and-square
High School students," contended Dan Dalzell.

There was much more talk of this sort, some of the Gridley boys
insisting that Fordham ought to be compelled to account for the
size and seeming age of some of the home players.

"We're up against a crooked line-up, or I'll give up," muttered
Greg Holmes.

"Now, see here, fellows," laughed Captain Dick. "I don't believe
in making any fuss beforehand. We'll just go ahead and take what
comes to us."

"It would be too late to make a kick after we've played," cried
some one.

"You fellows," continued Dick, "make me think of what I heard
Mr. Pollock say to Wilcox, chairman of the campaign committee
back home."

"What was that?" demanded half a dozen.

"Why," chuckled Prescott, "Mr. Pollock said to Wilcox: 'Now, see
here, there's always a chance that the election will go our way.
So never yell fraud until after the election is over.'"

"I guess that's the wisest philosophy," laughed Coach Morton,
who had taken no part in the previous conversation.

"If that's the Fordham team," continued Dick, "it's one of pretty
sizable fellows. But we'll do our plain duty, which is to pile
out on to the field and proceed to stroll through any line that
is posted in our way."

Just before the Gridley youngsters were ready to go out for preliminary
practice the big Fordham fellows came off the field.

"Hullo!" piped Dave, as the Gridley boys strolled out to the gridiron.
"You ought to feel happy, Dick. There's a big section of West
Point over on the grand stand."

Nearly two hundred young men in black and gray cadet uniforms
of the United States Military Academy pattern sat in a solid block
at one point on the grand stand.

"No, they're not West Pointers," sighed Dick. "See here, those
fellows, of course, are students at the Fordham Military institute.
They wear the West Point uniform. And that's the military school
that Phin Drayne went to."

"The sneak!" grunted Dave. "I wonder if he's over in that bunch,
now."

"I'm not even enough interested to wonder," returned Prescott.
"He's where he can't do us any harm, anyway."

"But, if the Fordham boys put anything over us, I'll bet Drayne
has things timed so that the military boys will do a big and
noisy lot of boasting."

"They will, anyway, if we allow them a chance," answered Dick.
"Now, spread out, fellows," he called, raising his voice.

In the next moment the ball was in lively play.

The first time that a fumble was made a jeering chorus sounded
among the military school boys.

"I expected it," growled Darrin.

"We don't care, anyway," smiled Dick. "Let 'em hoot! I don't
draw the line until they throw things."

"If they knew Phin Drayne as we do, they'd throw him first," grimaced
Darrin.

A minute later another hoot went up. It was plain that the military
school boys had been primed for this.

But the gray-clad youths, it was very soon evident, were not the
only ones who had come out to make a noise. Half of the Fordham
crowd present joined in the volleys of derision that were showered
down on the practicing boys from Gridley.

"It's nothing but a mob!" declared Darrin, his eyes flashing.

"Careful, old fellow," counseled Prescott coolly. "They're trying
to get our nerve before the game begins. Don't let 'em do it."

This excellent instruction Dick contrived to pass throughout his
team. Thereafter the Gridley boys seemed not to hear the harsh
witticisms that were hurled at them from all sides of the field.

Just in the nick of time the Gridley Band began playing. That
stopped the annoyance for a while, for Fordham had neglected to
provide a band.

Yet when the Gridley High School song was started by the band,
and the Gridley boosters joined in the words, the answer from
Fordham came in the form of a "laughing-song," let loose with
such volume that the Gridley offering to the merriment was drowned
out.

"I hope we can give this rough town a horrible thumping - -that's
all," muttered Dave, his eyes flashing.

"Don't let them capture your 'goat,' and we will," Dick promised,
as quietly as ever.

The plain hostility of the home crowd was wearing in on more than
one of the Gridley boys. Dick felt obliged to call his eleven
together, and to give them some quiet, homely but forcible advice.
Coach Morton followed, with more in the same line.

Yet it came as a welcome relief to the Gridley youngsters when
the referee and the other officials came to the field and game
was called.

Dick Prescott won the toss, and took the kickoff.

That, of course, sent the ball into Fordham ranks. In an instant
the solid Fordham line emitted a murmur that sounded like a bear's
growl, then came thundering down upon the smaller Gridley youngsters.

There was a fierce collision, but Gridley held on like a herd
of bulls. The ball was soon down.

For five minutes or so there was savage playing. Fordham played
a "slugging" game of the worst kind. Several foul tackles were
quickly made by home players, yet so quickly released that the
referee could not be sure and could not inflict a penalty. Sly
blows were struck when the lines came together.

The average football captain would have claimed penalties, and
fought the matter out.

But Dick Prescott let matters run by. He was waiting his opportunity.

So hard was the "slugging," so overbearing and ruthlessly unfair
was the Fordham charge that, at the end of five minutes, Gridley
was forced to make a safety, losing two points at the outset.

"Yah!" sneered an exultant voice from the ranks of the military
school. "That's the fine Captain Prescott we've heard about!"

Tom Reade, in togs, was standing among the Gridley subs at the
side line.

Tom recognized, as did all the Gridley boys, the voice of Phin
Drayne.

"Yes!" bellowed Tom, facing the gray-clad group. "And that last
speaker was a fellow who was expelled from Gridley High School
for selling out his team!"

It was a swift shot and a bull's-eye. The Fordham Institute boys
had no answer ready for that. Half of them turned to stare at
Phin Drayne, whose guilty face, with color coming and going in
flashes seemed to admit the truth of Reade's taunt.

"Dick," growled Darrin, as they moved forward, after the safety,
to Gridley's twenty-five yard line, "these Fordham fellows are
simply ruffians. They're fouling us every second, and they'll
smash half our fellows into the hospital."

"We'll see about that!"

Dick Prescott's voice was as quiet and cool as ever, but there
was an ominous flash in his eyes.




CHAPTER XV

"We'll Play the Gentleman's Game."


At the next down Dan Dalzell held up his hand, making a dash for
the referee.

"I claim a foul!" he called.

"Captain, this is for you," announced the referee, turning to
Dick. "Be quick, if you've any complaint to make."

"Come here, Dalzell," called Prescott. "What was the foul?"

The Fordham players crowded about, muttering in an ugly way - -all
except one man, who skulked at the rear.

"There's the hoodlum," continued Dan excitedly, one hand over
his left breast. He pointed to the Fordham player skulking at
the rear. "That fellow deliberately gave me the elbow over the
heart when we came together."

"What have you to say, Captain Barnes?" demanded the referee,
turning to the Fordham leader.

"It's not true," retorted Barnes hotly. "Daniels, come here."

The matter was argued quickly and hotly, Gridley accusing, Fordham
hotly denying.

"Can't you Gridley fellows play with anything but your mouths?"
snarled Captain Barnes.

"We play a straight game," retorted Dick coldly. "We play like
gentlemen."

"Do you mean that we're not?" demanded Barnes swaggeringly.

"So far you've played like a lot of sluggers."

"See here! I've a good mind to thrash you, Prescott!" quivered
Barnes.

"It's always the truth that stings," retorted Dick, with a cool
smile.

"My fist would hurt, too."

"That's what we're asking you to do - -to save all your slugging
and bruising tactics until after a straight and gentlemanly game
has been played," retorted Dick, with spirit.

Barnes clenched his fists, but the referee stepped squarely in
between the rival captains.

"Cut it!" directed that official tersely. "I'll do all the talking
myself. Captain Barnes, return to your men and tell them that
slugging and tricky work will be watched for more carefully, and
penalized as heavily as the rules allow. If it goes too far I'll
declare the game forfeited to the visiting team."

"This is a shame!" fumed Barnes. "And the whole charge is a mass
of lies."

"I'll watch out and see," promised - -or threatened - -the referee.
"Back to your positions. Captain Barnes, I'll give you thirty
seconds to pass the word around among your men."

"That black-haired prize-fighter with the mole on his chin tries
to give me his knee every time we meet in a scrimmage," growled
Hudson to Dick. "If he carries it any further, I think I know
a kick that will put his ankle out of business!"

"Then don't you dare use it," warned Dick sternly. "No matter
what the other fellows do, our team is playing a square, honest
game every minute of both halves!"

The referee had signaled them to positions. The Gridley boys
leaped into place.

Play was resumed. In the next three plays Fordham, under the
now more keenly watchful eyes of the officials, failed to make
the required distance, and lost the ball.

Gridley took the ball, now. In the next two plays, the smaller
fellows advanced the ball some twelve yards. But in the next
three plays following, they lost on downs, and Fordham again carried
the pigskin.

"The Fordham fellows are passing a lot of whispers every chance
they get," reported alert Dave.

"I don't care how much they whisper," was Dick's rejoinder. "But
watch out for crooked tricks."

Minute after minute went by. Gridley got the ball down to the
enemy's fifteen-yard line, then saw it slowly forced back into
their own territory.

Now Fordham began to "slug" again; yet so cleverly was it done
that the officials could not put their fingers on a definite instance
that could be penalized.

Bravely fighting, Gridley was none the less driven back. From
the ten-yard line Fordham suddenly made a right end play on which
the whole weight and force of the team was concentrated. In the
mad crush, three or four Gridley boys were "slugged" in the slyest
manner conceivable. Fordham broke through the line, carrying
the pigskin over the goal line with a rush.

Fordham boosters set up a roar that seemed to make the ground
shake, but the two hundred boys from the military school took
little or no part in the demonstration. Tom Reade's reply to
Phin Drayne had silenced them.

Swaggering like swashbucklers Fordham followed the ball back for
the kick for goal. It was made, securing six points, which were
added to the two received from Gridley being forced to make that
safety earlier in the game.

"Of all the miserable gangs of rowdies!" uttered Dave Darrin,
as the teams rested in quarters between the halves.

"I have two black-and-blue spots to show, I know I have," muttered
Hudson.

"We'll have some of our men on stretchers, if this thing keeps
up," growled Greg Holmes.

"What are you going to do about this business, Captain?" demanded
two or three of the fellows, in one breath.

"As long as we play," replied Dick Prescott, "we'll play the same
gentleman's game, no matter what the other fellows do. We may
quit, but we won't slug. We won't sully Gridley's good name for
honest play. And we won't quit, either, until Mr. Morton orders
us from the field."

"You have it right, Prescott," nodded the coach. "And I shan't
interfere, either, unless things get a good deal worse than they
have been. But the Fordham work has been shameful, and I don't
blame any of you for feeling that you'd rather forfeit the game
and walk off the field."

Besides being coach, Mr. Morton was also manager. At his call
the team would have left the field instantly, despite any other
orders from the referee. It always makes a bad showing, however,
for a team to leave the field on a claim of foul playing.

"All out for the second half!" sounded a voice in the doorway.

The Gridley boys went, fire in their hearts, flame in their eyes.




CHAPTER XVI

Gridley's Last Charge


"Remember, Captain Barnes!" called the referee significantly.

"Why don't you talk to Prescott, too?" demanded the Fordham captain
sulkily.

"I don't need to."

"You - - don't - -need to?" demanded Barnes, opening his eyes in
pretended wonder.

"No; Prescott and his fellows have a magnificent reputation for
fair play, and they've won it on merit."


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