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First day of school. Im glad I'm finaly in 8th grade bc its fun being in the oldest class at Parkside middle. But I can't believe it. We already have homework in english class. We have to keep a journal. 3 entries a week. For the whole semester! I don't even like writing thank you notes to my grandparents. Now I have to write something 3 times a week and im not even getting a gift.
Okay, thats my first entry.
After school today I went to North Park to practice throwing passes to my best freind, Brandon Gonzalez. Tryouts for the Parkside football team are next week! Im sure Coach Mack is going to pick me to be the starting QB bc I was the backup last year. Brandon will definately start at wide receiver. We are totally pumped about football!!!
I dont know what I should write about today. Nothing really happened except my dog Elway threw up on my dads shoes this morning and my dad yelled at me for giving Elway mashed potatos last night at dinner. How could I know the potatos were going to come out of the wrong end?
OK, that's 3 entries.
Date: Sunday, September 5
Get serious! You can do so much better than this. Your journal entries are much too short and have several careless errors, including misspelled words. You will be marked down for both. Each entry should be at least two paragraphs. Next time, include the dates, don't take shortcuts, and pay more attention to spellcheck! It also wouldn't hurt to check over your entries before you send them.
I can tell that you love football because you talk about it with such enthusiasm. I think football is a great subject for your journal. Why don't you begin with tryouts and then describe the season as it goes along?
If you can talk about football with enthusiasm, you can write about football with enthusiasm.
Ms. Samantha Ignacio
Parkside Middle School
Write what makes you happy.
—O. HenryCHAPTER 2
Okay, my journal can be all about football. That should be more fun than writing thank you notes, but it's still writing. It will be all about football, but without the misspellings and stuff. (Really, Ms. Ig.)
Today was the first day of tryouts. Coach Mack made everybody run a mile around the track and timed us. I came in seventh out of fifty kids. That's pretty good. Brandon was better. He came in second. That's okay, though. He should be faster than me. He's a wide receiver. The fastest kid on the team was a seventh grader named Devro. Some kids think he might be the starting quarterback this season. Give me a break! If he's so fast, he should be a running back or a wide receiver. Or run really fast to some other school that needs a quarterback.
Second day of tryouts. Coach Mack says nobody is going to get cut from the team, so we're just trying out for positions. Lots of kids want to be the quarterback, but most of them stink. Some of those guys couldn't throw a wad of paper into a recycling bin if they were standing right next to it.
I was awesome during quarterback drills. I hit all the receivers right in the hands, even on the long fly patterns. Coach decided to keep four players at quarterback. Of course, I'm one of them. Two others—Andre Wilson and Russell Parker—are eighth graders like me. The last one is that new kid, Devro. I'm not worried. I can beat out all those guys.
We had practice again today. We did a bunch of exercises and stuff.
Coach still hasn't decided who's going to be the starting quarterback. Devro is getting annoying. He's always clapping his hands and trying to pump everybody up. He acts likes he's already the starting quarterback. Maybe he doesn't understand that I'm going to be the starting QB.
Date: Thursday, September 9
You are a very good student; your journal should be much better. Remember, the journal is an important part (25%) of the first-quarter grade. I'm sure I don't need to remind you that you can't play football unless you pass all your subjects.
Please rewrite your journal entries for the first two days of tryouts and send them to me tomorrow. Please include more details this time. Keep in mind that I am not a football fan. You'll need to explain football terms such as "fly pattern."
I told you earlier that journal entries must be at least two paragraphs, but I expect a good student like you to write more. Do not number your paragraphs and please spell out the date of each entry.
Talk to me after class if you have any questions.
Ms. Samantha Ignacio
Parkside Middle School
The best writing is rewriting.
—E. B. White
Tuesday, September 7 (AGAIN!)
Football tryouts have started and Coach Mack is working us hard.
First, he made everybody run a mile—that's four laps around the track—and timed us. The mile wasn't that tough because we were wearing sweatpants and T-shirts, not full football gear. Brandon and I have been running all summer. My buddy, Colby Johnson, has been running with us too. So we were ready. Colby is our best offensive lineman, but he's not as fast as Brandon or me.
Our times for the mile were:
Brandon—5:54 (5 minutes and 54 seconds)
I came in seventh out of fifty kids trying out. Brandon came in second and Greg finished in the middle of the pack. The kid who came in first is some seventh grader named Devro Beech. He's really fast. And really annoying.
Next, Coach made us do a bunch of calisthenics—jumping jacks, push-ups, toe touches, and all sorts of sprints. We were sweating like pigs. The hardest things were the leg lifts. They were brutal. We had to lift our legs up, spread them, put them back together, and then let them down slowly. Leg lifts are supposed to toughen up your stomach muscles, but I thought my legs were going to fall off.
Wednesday, September 8 (AGAIN!)
During practice today Coach let us go to the positions we wanted to play. Lots of kids want to play quarterback. So the assistant coach, Mr. Shortall, had us take a hike from center, drop back, and throw passes to receivers who were running patterns.
Some of the kids were pathetic. They couldn't throw the ball more than 15 yards. The other kids were teasing them, saying they threw like girls ... or worse, like linemen. No way they'll get to play quarterback.
After all my practice with Brandon, I was awesome. I hit all the receivers right in the hands, even on the long fly patterns. (Ms. Ig: That's when the receiver runs straight downfield, about 25 yards or more.) After everybody threw a bunch of passes, Coach Shortall chose four guys to keep at quarterback—me, two other eighth graders, Andre Wilson and Russell Parker, and that seventh-grade kid, Devro.
Later, Coach Shortall told Andre Wilson the team needed him to play defense. Yeah, right. He just wasn't very good at quarterback.
So now there are just three of us. I'm not that worried about Russell and I don't worry about seventh graders. And, like I said, Devro is a seventh grader.
Date: Sunday, September 12
Your revisions were much better. The details you included gave me a clearer picture of what it is like to be at practice and part of the team.
You say you are certain you will be the starting quarterback and that Devro is not a threat to you. Is that what you are really thinking? Try to be honest about your feelings.
Keep up the good work. And remember to include a lot of interesting details in your writing.
Ms. Samantha Ignacio
Parkside Middle School
I write in order to understand what I am thinking.
—Abraham VergheseCHAPTER 3
Monday, September 13
The coaches handed out equipment today—football pants, shoulder pads, helmets, and shirts. We'll be working out in full pads from now on.
During practice, the coaches gave Devro and me the same number of reps, or repetitions. (That's football talk for turns running the plays.) I can't believe they are giving Devro so many reps at quarterback. So now he probably thinks he's going to be the starting quarterback.
After practice, the coaches gave a playbook to every player. It's a blue three-ring binder with about forty diagrammed plays in it. I wrote "Quarterbacks Rule" on the front of mine with a marker. (How's that for details, Ms. Ig?)
I already know about 90% of the plays from last year.
I watched Devro when he opened his playbook and saw all those complicated diagrams. He started looking really hard at one of them, but I don't think he understood it. In fact, he looked like he was going to be sick to his stomach.
That made me feel better. (Those are my honest feelings, Ms. Ig.) Knowing the plays will be a BIG advantage for me.
The coaches also handed out our schedule.
The top two teams play in a championship game at the end of the year. That's what we're aiming for, the championship game.
Wednesday, September 15
One of the things I love about football is the plays. There are lots of cool signals and secret codes to football plays. Here's the passing tree from our playbook. It should explain the pass patterns.
We spent most of the last two practices running simple plays like 35-Dive over and over again. That's when the quarterback (me) turns to his left and hands the ball to the running back, who then takes off with Colby, our left tackle and best offensive lineman, blocking for him all the way.
Coach had us run 36-Dive a lot too. That's when the running back heads toward the right. After a while, though, I got bored just handing the ball off to Jordan Jenkins, our best running back. But Coach Mack said he wanted us to know those plays for our scrimmage next Monday and for the first game against Churchill.
I'm always glad when we get to the pass plays. That's my absolute favorite part of practice. I love to throw the football and watch it flying through the air in a tight spiral.
Devro is having trouble with the plays. I'll bet his head is spinning from all the signals and numbers and stuff. Sometimes he gets the moves all wrong. Like today, Devro turned to his right to hand the ball off to Jordan on the 35-Dive play. The only problem? Jordan was going to his left. Devro just stood there with the ball, looking like a dope.
Coach Mack yelled at Devro and then pointed to me, "Matt, get in there and show Devro how to run a 35-Dive." Listening to Coach yelling at him, I almost felt sorry for Devro.
But not really. (Another honest feeling, Ms. Ig!)
Friday, September 17
This big eighth grader named Dan Jankowski quit today. Everyone thought he was going to start as a lineman on offense. But he told Coach Mack he didn't want to play football. Colby said we won't miss him because he's nothing but a wimp who likes to sit around and play video games. I guess Dan would rather play football with his thumbs on a remote control. Too bad. All you get doing that is strong thumbs.
Still, it felt funny watching Dan walk away in his regular clothes while the rest of us were in our football stuff. In a way it was like he was telling us that playing football was stupid.
To tell you the truth, I can't believe football is much fun for the linemen. They have to spend all their time pushing and shoving each other around in the middle of the field. They never get to throw the ball like me or run for a touchdown like Jordan or Brandon.
Colby tells me I'm wrong. He likes smacking other linemen around.
I'm glad there are guys like Colby because it's tough to have a good team without a good offensive line. When Pop-Pop (that's my grandfather), comes over to our house to watch football on TV, he always says, "Running backs are a dime a dozen. Give me a good offensive line." Pop-Pop's been watching football for almost sixty years, so I guess he knows what he's talking about.
We voted for a team manager today. The manager helps the coaches and keeps all the practice and game statistics.
We elected Michelle Campano, an eighth grader who is super smart at math. Keeping the stats should be easy for her, but I think the main reason she won is because she's real pretty. Believe me, if you have fifty boys our age voting in an election, chances are the winner is going to be a pretty girl.
Sunday, September 19
I was supposed to be doing my homework tonight, but I was thinking about football. I know I already have three entries for this week, but I felt like writing this. (Can you believe it, Ms. Ig? I'm doing an extra entry. Maybe I should get extra credit?)
I've got to admit, I'm getting worried about Devro. To be honest, he's really good, especially for a seventh grader. He's the fastest runner on the team and can throw the ball pretty well. Not as well as me, but he's got a good arm.
But Devro sure acts like he's a big deal, always chest bumping guys after a good play. And whenever he makes a touchdown, he throws his arms in the air like he's some world champion. It's so annoying. Brandon says Devro just loves football. Hey, I love football, too, but I don't go around acting like that.
I've got to be the starting quarterback. I've been telling everybody and walking around school like I was going to be the starting quarterback.
Date: Sunday, September 19
Your journal entries for last week were very good. All four of them! I liked it when you talked about the linemen. That was very interesting to me.
Thanks for the schedule (and the passing tree). Maybe I will come to a game. I live near Renwich Middle School.
I think you are hitting your stride as a writer. The most important thing is to keep your eyes open. Good writers (and good quarterbacks) are very observant. Not everything is as it seems. So pay attention and think. If you do, your journal will keep getting better and better.
Ms. Samantha Ignacio
Parkside Middle School
Any life will provide the material for writing, if it is attended to.
—Wallace StegnerCHAPTER 4
Monday, September 20
Today we played a controlled scrimmage against Woods Academy. A controlled scrimmage is different than a regular season game. The coaches for both teams are right on the field, not on the sidelines. They are supposed to talk to the players after each play to help us get better. Most of the time they just yell at us.
The good news is that Coach Mack played me at quarterback for the first series of plays. The bad news is that he played Devro just as much.
I did okay. Most of the time I handed the ball off to our starting running back, Jordan, who ran in back of our best blockers, Colby and Brady Terres (the guy who took Dan Jankowski's place). We picked up a couple of first downs that way.
I threw one pass during the first group of plays. I called Wide-Right/Curl-In. We had practiced that a million times at North Park. Brandon ran downfield about ten yards and curled toward the middle. I hit him right on the numbers and we gained about 12 yards.
Both coaches seemed happy. Coach Shortall slapped me on the top of my helmet and said, "Good job, Matt!" But on the next set of plays they put Devro in at quarterback.
He looked nervous at first. On one play he turned the wrong way and got crushed by a Woods Academy defensive lineman.
"Devro didn't look so hot on that play," Brandon whispered to me on the sidelines.
Brandon and Colby are rooting for me to beat out Devro for starting quarterback. I know we're all supposed to be "one for all" and "all for one" on the team, but the honest truth is that you want to play with your buddies.
A few plays later, Devro looked like he was caught behind the line of scrimmage for a loss. But he shook off a Woods Academy tackler and took off for a long gain. He might have gone all the way, but the Woods Academy coach blew his whistle and started yelling at his defense.
Excerpted from Quarterback Season by Fred Bowen. Copyright © 2011 Fred Bowen. Excerpted by permission of Peachtree.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted May 14, 2015