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The Boys of Columbia High on the Gridiron by Graham B. Forbes

Part 4 out of 4

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only hope some of those Bellport players like Bardwell and
Banghardt don't try foul tactics on us, like they did in baseball,
that's all."

"The referee has his eye on 'em. He has been warned, and let them
try it at their peril. If those two dangerous half-backs are put
off the team it'll go to pieces in a hurry, mark my words. That's
what I'm expecting it to end in."

But Jack was mistaken. Bellport knew the folly of attempting
anything that had a suspicious look. Brawn and strategy and
agility must carry the day, no matter which side won.

Shrilly blew the whistle, and once more the ball, yellow no
longer, for it had been ground into the dirt, sailed through the
air. There was an exchange of punts that ended when Bellport held
the pigskin on her forty-yard line and the signal came for a play
around Columbia's left end.

"Watch out now, fellows!" warned Frank Allen. "Don't let 'em get
through, or past you."

"Eighteen--twenty-seven--sixty--all together--fourteen!" chanted
Snodgrass, and back the ball was snapped to him. In a flash he
passed it to Bardwell, who started as though to circle Shadduck at
right end. And then that trick, so often worked, so effective when
it comes out right, and so futile when it does not, was tried.
Bardwell passed the ball to Banghardt on the run, and the left-half
started for the end where Morris was.

How it happened none of the Columbia players, not even Morris
himself, could tell, but he was drawn in by the double pass and
his end was free to be circled by Banghardt. Even the Columbia two
half-backs were fooled, and no excuse for it, either, as they
admitted afterward, for they had often worked the play themselves.
Be that as it may, Banghardt was past, and with no one between him
and the goal line but Comfort.

But the full-back was a tower of strength, and with eagerly
outstretched hands he waited the oncoming of the left half.

"Get him, Comfort! Get him!" pleaded the crowd.

Straight at the full-back came Banghardt, and then, with a sudden
shifting, he turned aside, and Comfort grasped only the empty air,
while the man with the ball, amid the wild, excited cries of the
adherents of his school, while the grandstands fairly rocked under
the impact of thousands of stamping feet, touched down the

"Touchdown! Touchdown for Bellport!" howled the enthusiasts, while
the dazed Columbia team crawled out of the scrimmage and wondered
how it had happened. So, too, did some of the Bellport players
themselves wonder, for the play had come like a flash from a clear

The goal was easily kicked, tying the score, and then the big
crowd sat up and wondered what would come next.

"It's going to be a hot game all right!" was the general verdict.

"Here's where we beat you, Columbia!" called a Bellport supporter,
as he turned to Buster with a grin on his face. "Oh we've got you
in a hole dead sure. We've got your number."

"Oh, have you!" retorted Buster. "Wait. Don't count your chickens
until they're out of the woods."

After the kick-off there followed some line smashing tactics on
both sides. Once Bellport was penalized for off-side play, and
once Columbia lost the ball for holding in the line. Bellport was
later penalized ten yards for a second offense in off-side work,
and then the players seemed to realize the importance of being
careful, and they got down to business.

How they ever stood the smashing, banging tactics, the fierce
tackling, the eager runs, the line bucking, the giving and taking,
only one who has played football, and who knows the fierce joy of
the game, can understand. Nervous women cried out in alarm as they
saw the struggling mass and heap of boyish humanity. There were
several times when the play had to be stopped to allow the dashing
of cold water over some unlucky chap, to bring him out of a half
faint, and the number of lads who lost their wind, and had to have
it pumped into them by artificial respiration was many.

But no one was seriously hurt, though Coddling had to leave the
field because of a broken finger and Harper was replaced at the
Columbia right guard because he was so disabled from a fierce
piling-on of players that he was useless in the line.

Ten minutes more to play, and the score tied! Back and forth the
players had surged, up and down the field, now kicking, now
plunging into each other's line, now circling the ends. It was the
most fiercely contested game that had ever been played in the
league. The Columbia-Clifford contest was as nothing to it.

"Hold 'em, Tigers! Don't let 'em score again! Rip out another
touchdown! Go at 'em!"

How the cohorts of Columbia begged and pleaded! No less did the
friends of Bellport.

A touchdown, a field goal, or a safety for either side now would
win the game and the championship. Which would it be? To which
side would it go. A thousand admirers of either team asked those

Bellport had the ball, and had, by a smashing rush, carried it
three yards through Columbia's line. It was on the latter's
forty-yard line now, but it had been there before, and had not
advanced much farther. That last attack, though, had had power
behind it.

"Look out!" warned Frank. "They may do us!"

The play looked to be another rush on the part of Bellport, and
with fierce and eager eyes her opponents watched for the slightest
advantage. Bardwell came on with the ball like a stone from a
catapult. He hit the line between Shay and Daly, but he did not go
through. With desperate energy, borne of despair, the guard and
tackle held.

And then, wonder of wonders, probably because he was dazed by the
impact with which he hit the line, Bardwell dropped the ball. Like
a flash Daly had fallen on it.

"Our ball!" he fairly howled, and when the crowd knew that they
went wild--that is, the Columbia contingent.

But the time had slipped by. There were but three minutes more of

"Quick now, fellows. Line up! Get a touchdown!" begged Frank.
"Break the tie!"

Into the play plunged the doughty captain himself for a ten-yard
gain, for the shock of surprise at their misfortune still held the
Bellport players spellbound.

"Another like that!" cried the throng.

A fake kick netted eight yards additional, and then followed more
line bucking.

"A goal from the field," suggested Wallace, when time was taken
out to allow Alpers to get back his end.

"No, straight up the field--rush it!" ordered Allen.

Once more he made a slight gain.

"One minute more!" warned the time-keeper.

"Oh, can we do it!" panted Wallace.

He called on Ralph West for a straight plunge between guard and
tackle. The plucky left-half drew a long breath, and gathered
himself for the tremendous energy he knew would be needed. They
were but four feet from the goal line. The ball _must_ be
shoved over if human lungs and muscles could stand the terrific
strain a moment longer.

Amid a solemn silence came the signal. Like a shot West plunged
forward, with the ball tightly tucked under his arm.

Into the line he went, smash bang! Oh, what a great hole there was
torn for him by the strenuous Shay and Daly! Through it West went,
and in vain did Lee and Bardwell try to stop him. As well try to
stop a rushing torrent as the Columbia players now. They were
going to have that touchdown or tear up the goal posts.

With the quickness that argued how well he knew the need of haste,
West placed the ball down beyond and over his head after he had
fallen in a fierce tackle. Over the line--over--ah, was it over?
The chalk-mark was obliterated at this point. Was it over?

"Touchdown!" howled the Columbia players madly.

"Never. It's not over!" retorted Bellport's men fiercely.

There was a wild dispute, and in the midst of it the whistle blew,
ending the game.

Who had won? It would take a measurement to decide. The linesmen
came hurrying up, while the crowd chaffed at the delay and did not
know who to cheer.

Anxiously the measure was taken, and while hearts wildly beat the
announcement was made.

"The ball is over by four inches. Columbia wins the touchdown!"

"Oh, wow!"


"We win!"

"Eleven to six!"

"The silver cup is ours!"

And then such a riot of wild cries, such stamping of feet, such
waving of banners and streamers of ribbon! The great championship
game was won by Columbia! Columbia!

"Columbia! Columbia the Gem of the Gridiron!" came the eager
shouts. And the players filed off the field.



That Thanksgiving night Columbia went wild.

True, the first snow of the year began sifting down, and the
ground was covered with a white mantle; but such a little thing as
that could not quench the ardor of those happy fellows. And so for
hours the town resounded with cheers and songs, while in several
places great bonfires along the banks of the Harrapin told of the
general rejoicing.

How could they help it when Columbia High had completed the
greatest year in all her history--first there was the winning of
the baseball championship; then came the hotly contested inter-school
rowing races, in which she won new laurels with her young athletes;
and last but not least, both Clifford and Bellport had gone down to
bitter defeat before her gridiron warriors!

Frank would have begged off, but even the girls insisted that it
would be a shame to spoil the fun. So he had to join in the
festivities, and shout with the rest of Columbia's brave sons and
fair daughters, as the gigantic procession wound in and out
through all the town, greeted by answering cheers from the equally
enthusiastic fathers and mothers from the windows.

"There's only one more thing we ought to scoop in this year," said
Paul Bird, as he and Frank stood with the girls and watched the
antics of Herman Hooker and his band of comical players, wherein
the most astonishing stunts were indulged in with amazing
instruments manufactured for the occasion.

"You mean the hockey championship, I suppose?" returned Frank,

"Yes, and from the expression on your face, old fellow, I'm of the
opinion right now that you mean to have a look-in on that later on
when the river is frozen again."

Frank laughed and nodded.

"Some of us have been talking it over. You know Clifford has been
unbeaten in that line for years. They have the best skaters up
there in the State, they claim. If we think to accept their
standing challenge this year it's up to us to put a better team on
the ice than last season," he remarked.

"Well, they did snow you under, for a fact. But experience showed
that there were two fellows on your team who ought never to have
been there. They lost the match through their clumsiness. Isn't that
so, girls?" demanded Paul.

"Everybody said so," declared Helen; and Minnie nodded her heard
to indicate that she was of the same opinion.

"Then it must be so," laughed Frank. "But those fellows are not on
the team this year. We've been keeping quiet about who is going to
play. The committee have selected a certain number of players, and
the best will be chosen in time. Mark my words, Paul, we mean to
try and give Clifford the biggest kind of a fight this winter.
Whether we can win or not depends on many things. Time will tell."

And time did tell, for what manner of hockey was played that
winter on the ice-clad surface of the neighboring Harrapin can be
found recorded in the next volume of this series of High School
sports, entitled: "The Boys of Columbia High on the Ice; or, Out
for the Hockey Championship."

When the first of December came around shortly after that great
Thanksgiving Day game, Ralph West sought out Frank once more. His
face told of excitement, and Frank was consequently ready to
expect some important news.

"Did you get your usual monthly allowance from Uncle Jim's
office?" he asked.

"Yes, yesterday. I suppose he left word before he went that it
should be sent while he was away. But I've heard from him direct,"
replied Ralph, his face glowing with the eager light of anticipated

"You have? A letter from China or Russia or Siberia, which?"

"You're away off, Frank. This was a cablegram. I just got it at
the office, for I have wandered in there often in hopes of such a
thing, and know the operator. It was from Tokio, and I suppose
your Uncle Jim must have followed Mrs. Langworthy and her brother
Arnold Musgrove there. Perhaps they gave up all hope of getting to
Russia through China. I don't know how that is, but here's what it
says," and he handed a message to Frank, who glanced down at these

"Leave here next steamer for States. Mrs. Langworthy accompanies
me. Keep up a good heart, for there is much joy in store for you.

"Hurrah! that's glorious news, old fellow! From my heart I
congratulate you! Now, I know Uncle Jim well enough to feel sure
that he'd never cable like that unless he was absolutely positive
of his ground. Like as not, that monster of an Arnold--why wasn't
his name Benedict like the Revolutionary traitor, has confessed;
for you don't notice his name among the expected travelers."

"Well, I don't know how I'll ever be able to stand the weeks that
must pass before they get here in Columbia. You must help me,
Frank, you and Helen," declared Ralph, gripping the hand of his
chum almost savagely.

"We will, all right. The time will fly, because you're anticipating
happy news. Just think of the extravagance of Uncle Jim, sending
nearly thirty words in a cablegram. It costs twenty-five cents a
word to London, and goodness knows how many times that from Tokio
here. He knows what he's doing though, and I warrant you it's the
lady's money that pays for that cablegram," whereupon Ralph
impulsively raised the paper to his lips and kissed it, then blushed
like a girl.

With such good and true friends around him, it may be sure that
Ralph was not going to be left alone much of the time. They made
him join in all their sports, and with the coming of winter a
dozen new things presented themselves to the boys and girls of old
Columbia High.

Minnie was happier than ever, since that little shadow was
removed, and her former warm, friendly intercourse with Frank and
Helen renewed. Many times she thought of how valiantly Frank had
stood there, holding the attention of that terrible bull, so as to
allow her time to clamber out of harm's way; and never without a
shudder, as she contemplated what a terrible thing might have
happened had the boy slipped when avoiding those rushes of the
enraged animal.

Never would she allow that old red sweater to leave her possession.
The very sight of it always made her sigh with satisfaction. It
had undoubtedly had much to do with the savage attack of that
animal, whose pasture she so unwittingly invaded; but had that
event not happened, perhaps the mystery of that torn paper would
never have been explained.

Nothing could again cause her to ever doubt the fidelity of Frank
Allen; and to the end of the chapter they must always be, as she
had said that day, "good friends, true friends!"


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