“Sorry we’re late, Coach,” Samson Hill said, breaking into a wide smile. “We got a little lost. The roads are tortuous up in these hills.”
The Corinth guys broke ranks and laughed a bit, and Coach Davidson eyed them all with clear disdain. The enmity in the air between the two teams was palpable. Drew glanced at Jason, Clay, and Dirk. They were all waiting for the tirade. These Corinth guys clearly had no idea who they were dealing with. But they would find out in the next five seconds. Coach Davidson was known for his punitive creativity. Once, when he’d found out that the offensive line was chugging Red Bull before games, he’d had them all drink a case apiece the following Monday before school. The guys had panic attacks all day. Everyone thought Coach would be fired, but he defended himself to the school board and somehow came out with nothing but a reprimand.
“Do you think this is funny, Hill?” Coach demanded vehemently. His nostrils flared, and his already sunburned face practically glowed.
“No, Coach,” Samson said quickly.
Coach looked down the line of Corinth players with a dour expression.
Come on. Let’s just dispense with these guys already, Drew thought hopefully.
“I can’t believe they’re wearing their old uniforms,” Jason whispered to Drew. “Don’t they know their team is defunct?”
Drew’s heart clenched. Clay was right. This was sacred ground. And he was sure that these guys didn’t have even a modicum of respect for that. How could they? Some of them had spent the last three years of their lives psyching themselves to come in here and tear Washingtonville apart. They had been trained to loathe Washingtonville just as much as the Washingtonville guys loathed them.
“All right. I’m gonna give you a pass for today since it’s your first time here, but tomorrow I expect all of you to be here half an hour early and ready to go,” Coach Davidson said. A bunch of the guys behind Drew grumbled. He knew they were thinking the same thing he was. How could their venerable coach let himself by placated by such an obvious lie? He was way smarter than this. “Your teammates here had to wait for you, and you’re gonna make that time up to them, got it?”
“Yes, Coach,” the Corinth players said halfheartedly.
“I said, got it!?” Coach barked.
“Yes, Coach!” they all shouted in reply.
“Good! Now take the field! Defense to the left, offense to the right!” Coach demanded. “And I want the Corinth players mixed in with the Washingtonville players. This is one team, now, people! Get used to it!”
Drew swallowed the lump in his throat as the players walked by him to take their spots in line. His pity faded the second he saw Samson Hill striding down the line, chin up, checking out the Washingtonville guys. All Drew wanted to do was trip the kid as he walked by. Or better yet, shove him. Show him exactly how welcome he and his crew were. But he knew that instigating a fight would not go over well with Coach.