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Cody Martin smiled as he walked past the Grant High
School gym. Ah, the sights and sounds of basketball practice, he thought. You gotta love 'em.
He stopped momentarily at the south gym doorway and surveyed the flurry of activity: the rat-a-tat slapping of leather on hardwood as Terry Alston showed off his dribbling skills near the south baseline. The clang of
Greg 'the Cannon' Gannon's high-arcing jump shots as he tried to find his range from twenty feet. The squeaking of Terrance Dylan's shoes as he ran agility drills along the east sideline. Taking stock of it all was
Coach Clayton, who had moved up from his GrantChapter 1iness
Middle School position to lead the Eagle freshmen. The loose-limbed coach prowled the near sideline sporting a brand-new blue and silver warm-up suit, offering such helpful pointers as, 'For the love of Rick Barry, will you puh-leeze concentrate when you shoot free throws, Mr.
It was 6:25 in the morning on the second Monday of November, five minutes before the first frosh basketball practice. Gannon launched an air ball and almost ran into Cody as he scrambled to retrieve it.
'Hey, Martin,' he panted. 'You gonna join us this morning?'
Cody wagged his head. 'Uh, Gannon, it's still football season for me. Second round of the play-offs are this Friday, in case you haven't heard.'
Gannon shrugged. 'I know. I just thought you might put in double duty. You know, run with us in the mornings, do football in the afternoons.'
'Did a basketball hit you in the head, dude?' Cody asked with a chuckle. 'I'm so sore I'm walking like
Frankenstein. That's why I'm here so early. Gonna take a whirlpool, gonna have Dutch help me with some stretching.'
'Well, I wish you guys well,' Gannon said. 'But we're gonna miss you. And Pork Chop, too. It rocks that you're both playing varsity football as freshmen.
But we're thin without you. Especially on defense. We need some stoppers like you and the big fella. What's
Porter weighing now, anyway? About 225? We could use that beef under the boards.'
Cody turned to the locker room. 'Hey, I hope we're out here with you soon,' he said. 'But not too soon.'
With an involuntary groan, Cody slowly lowered himself into the bubbling water of the stainless steel whirlpool tub in the training room. I wonder if there's any part of me that doesn't hurt. He considered the question for a moment. Maybe my hair. And I think my ears are okay.
As he felt his aching muscles begin to relax, he leaned his head back and replayed the highlights of the Grant Eagles' win in the opening round of the
Colorado high school football play-offs, just two days before.
Bishop Moreland was a Catholic school in the southern part of the state. Cody and his teammates had watched a video tape on them during their lunch hours leading up to the game. The Bulldogs were huge,
but they looked a bit slow. Their offensive line didn't explode off the snap the way Pork Chop and his O-line teammates did.
On the other hand, Moreland had a 230-pound fullback named Michaels who played like a human battering ram. If that guy breaks through the line and into the secondary, Cody thought with a shudder the first time he saw Michaels on tape, I don't know how I'm supposed to bring him down. He weighs twice as much as I do!
Fortunately for Cody, when game day arrived the
Eagles stacked their defense against the run, putting five players on the line with three linebackers playing tight behind them. That meant only three defensive backs, making Cody the odd DB out. He entered the game on likely passing downs, but even in these situations, the Bulldogs favored sending Michaels into the teeth of the Grant defense.
Watching most of the first half from the sidelines,
Cody couldn't understand the strategy. The middle of the Grant line was occupied by Gordon 'ATV'
Daniels, a 210-pound tank who bench-pressed 340
pounds and owned legs like tree trunks.
Playing right behind ATV was Brendan Clark,
among the state's best middle linebackers. He was a fierce hitter, and Cody felt himself cringing every time Clark collided with Michaels. The big fullback had more than thirty pounds on Clark, but more often than not, the latter stopped him cold.
The first half ended with the Eagles up 7--0. ATV,
who was an even better fullback than a D-lineman,
rumbled up the middle for a thirty-eight-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter to give the home team the edge.
After cups of Gatorade had been guzzled and a few ankles re-taped, Coach Martin Morgan gathered the team around him in the locker room. 'You've seen the tapes,' he said evenly. 'You know what they're gonna do---keep blasting Michaels up the middle,
hoping to wear us down physically and mentally.
Most teams can't stop that big bruiser for a whole game. But you're not most teams. You keep plugging up the middle, and they're gonna get desperate. And that's when we slam the door on 'em.'
ATV stood and began slamming the door of a locker behind him. Such was his power that Cody feared the door would fly off its hinges.
'Slam the door!' ATV bellowed after each effort.
'Slam! Slam! Slam! Game over!'