He set up and threw a perfect spiral to the center of the field. Drew sprinted out to catch it.
“Nice one!” Samson cheered.
“Dude, who do you think Trey threw balls to in our backyard our entire lives? The guy was insatiable when it came to practice,” Drew said.
Samson clapped his hands, then raised them over his head. “Come on. Throw me the ball.”
“You do realize that if anyone from the team sees this, they’re gonna mock us to the ends of the earth,” Drew said, tossing the ball back.
“Come on. What’s more innocuous than a game of catch?” Samson said. “Besides, we’re supposed to be putting our differences aside. If they see us hanging out, I think that would be a good thing.” He backed up a few paces. “Go long, man.”
Drew did as he was told, racing across the field. The sun warmed his back and the wind tossed his wet hair as he looked over his shoulder for the ball. Samson threw a perfect spiral, and Drew reached up and plucked it out of the sky. Then, just for fun, he ran the last ten yards into the end zone.
“And Hill completes to Benson for the score!” Samson shouted, raising his arms in the air.
Drew grinned. Somehow, this little game of catch was having a pacific effect on his nerves. For the first time all year, Drew was enjoying football. He threw the ball back to Samson and they ran another play. This time, the throw was off, and Drew had to launch himself into the air and dive for it. He came down hard on his side, clutching the rock.
“Damn, man! What’s up with these skills?” Samson asked, jogging over to help him up.
“Please. I’m not that good,” Drew said with a scoff.
“Not really. My brother, I guess. I’ve always played quarterback,” Drew said with a shrug, knocking some of the mud off his arms. “Never really had the inclination to do anything else.” He nodded at Samson. “Your turn. Go deep.”
“All right,” Samson said.
He turned and sprinted down the field, and Drew tossed him an arcing pass. Samson caught the ball, turned, and immediately threw it back. Drew raced about twenty yards to catch it, and they both cheered. It was the first time the two of them had hung out without pretense, and Drew was enjoying their new rapport. It was amazing how much could change in twenty-four hours. Yesterday, Drew had wanted nothing more than to beat this guy down. Today he was finding his company palatable. More than palatable. He was actually having fun.
“Know what I think?” Samson said, catching his breath as they came together at the middle of the field again. “I think you’re not a half bad-person, Benson.”
Drew laughed. “Don’t promulgate that opinion. All your friends will turn on you.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Samson said, dropping back with the ball again. “And Hill takes the ball. The defense is coming on the blitz!” he called out in a commanding commentator’s voice. Drew laughed and raced across field. “He looks left, but Lazarus is covered. He looks right. Szonyi is covered too. Carradine is coming right at him. He looks out for blood, folks. This could get messy!”
Drew laughed as he looked back for the ball. “But wait! Hill has an open man down field! Benson just put a sick move on the defender, and he’s free and clear!” Drew called out.
“Hill pulls back. He fires!” Samson shouted.
He chucked the ball in a high arc as if he were really shooting over the defensive players’ heads. Drew was perfectly positioned. He caught the ball and dove into the end zone.
“Another stellar play!” Samson shouted. “And the crowd goes wild!”
Drew got up and over his shoulder saw Coach Davidson standing near the parking lot watching them. From so far away, he couldn’t exactly tell what the coach was thinking, but Drew thought he saw a hint of a smile.
Coach was proud of him, proud of Samson, enjoying the nascent friendship between them. Maybe Samson was right after all. Maybe there was hope for this team yet.