The first game is nearly over… the final whistle is drawing closer. Will Plex’s team end up victorious? Will his sister’s team come out on top? Will that pesky dragon decide to interfere again? These answers can be found by reading on… in this, the sixteenth, installment of the Fantasy Football series written by Revis and me.
The ball spun in slow motion. The arms of the defender and offensive linesman scrambled to grab ahold of it before it reached the ground. Their hands knocked against each other and the ball. It bounced upward, Plex couldn’t see what had caused it to pop up, and it spun even more wildly than before. The two players tried to reach for the ball again but weren’t in good positions and kept getting in each other’s way.
Then Kalant appeared seemingly from nowhere and plucked the ball from the air. Plex couldn’t believe his eyes. It defied logic. The dwarf had plowed into the ogre to keep the pass from being completed, how had Kalant recovered so quickly? Yet, there he was.
The dwarf turned up field and began to sprint towards the end zone, seventy something yards away. Most of both teams on the field were quickly behind the play but scanning ahead Plex saw there were two or three tackles Kalant would have to avoid or break. Kalant wasn’t fast enough to outrun them.
The first to reach him was a goblin. The player dove at Kalant’s legs. Kalant jumped to the left at the last moment so only the goblin’s fingers came into contact with him. Even that, the goblin had enough strength and momentum to nearly knock the dwarf off his feet.
Kalant quickly regained his balance, though, and churned his legs forward. He was at the forty-five, then then fifty, then the forty-five, the forty and an elf reached him. Rather than dive for the dwarf’s legs, the taller elf wrapped his arms around the dwarf’s torso and threw himself to the ground. As stable as Kalant was, he couldn’t overcome the toppling force and both players crashed into the turf.
Kalant had made it to the thirty-eight yard line, nearly within field goal range. The game had once again turned around on a single play and, looking at the clock, Plex realized that if they used the same strategy of short run plays to just pick up one first down after another, they could easily run out the rest of the game with possession.
“Are you okay?
The gnome had once again appeared at Plex’s side.
“Yes,” Plex replied automatically and stepping towards the field.
“Are you sure?”
Plex turned and looked at his coach. He considered telling the gnome off for doubting him but then remembered how strange he had felt and he gave himself a moment to consider how he truly was now. Then, with a shrug of his shoulders, he said, “I think I’m okay. I still don’t know what happened to me but I should be able to run some plays out there.”
“Good. They are probably going to expect us to do some running plays to waste time so I want you to go for the end zone on this first play. Fake a hand-off to Glavven and then throw it to whichever receiver is more open down field.”
Plex couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Why would Coach Sprout risk another interception this late in the game when all they had to do to win was run down the clock? And wasn’t Glavven injured?
He looked back at the bench and saw the minotaur being attended to by the healer. Coach Sprout shouted at them and Glavven pushed the healer out of the way. The minotaur walked up to him with a slight limp. It wasn’t that noticeable, but Plex knew that if he saw it the other team would see it too.
“This won’t work if they know you’re hurt,” Plex said as they walked out onto the field. “I know you’re in a lot of pain right now but they won’t buy the run fake if they see you limping. You’ve got to play through it for at least this one play.”
Glavven nodded in response. The duo jogged into the huddle and relayed the play to the rest of the team. To his credit, Glavven showed no outward signs of pain or discomfort. The only way you’d know that something was wrong were the grunts that were coming out of his mouth when he stepped. Unless the defender was right next to him, they wouldn’t hear the grunts.
The team lined up. Plex looked over how the defense was set up. He didn’t see anything that he didn’t like. The defense was set up like he thought they would be. They had the line of scrimmage crowded, as if they were expecting a running play. That didn’t mean that a few of them wouldn’t drop back into coverage, just like Kalant had done on the previous play. He’d need to be careful when throwing the ball.
Plex called for the hike, grabbed the ball as it was handed to him, and faked the handoff to Glavven. The minotaur pretended to grab the ball and rushed forward. A wall of defenders met him at the line of scrimmage, but that didn’t matter to Plex. His eyes were downfield. The other team’s defensive backs, Gilania included, didn’t fall for the fake and stayed with the receivers. This would’ve been the perfect place for Foyarlen, because he had the speed to get past defenders, but Foyarlen was too busy being digested by the dragon to be any help to the team.
His first look, to Foyarlen’s replacement, wasn’t good. They were too well covered. The second option he looked at, his tight end Traag, was also covered fairly well. It would’ve been possible to force a throw into that coverage, but he wasn’t going to take any chances at this point in the game. The only other receiver he had downfield was Baclem, the troll. Gilania was covering him, and doing it well, but Baclem was a little bit taller than his sister. If he threw it high enough, it would give Baclem a chance to catch it, while staying out of Gilania’s reach.
The defensive line had finally caught on that Plex still had the ball and were bearing down on him. He reared back and heaved it to Baclem just before he took the top of someone’s head to his chest.
The air left his lungs and he grunted as he flew backwards. The padding he wore did well to ensure he wasn’t injured being rammed by the helmeted defender still hurt. As he crashed into the turf, landing on his backside, he pushed the pain to the back of his mind while scanning the flight of his pass to see if he was going to be successful.
Baclem was too far downfield, though, and Plex’s view was blocked by the line of players in front of him. Scrambling, he disentangled himself from the player that had tackled him and stood up just in time to see the ball hit Baclem’s hands. Time slowed to a crawl in Plex’s mind. The troll had been forced to jump to reach the football, which Plex had to admit was a terrifying sight. A full sized troll attempting to defy gravity looked completely out of place, defying logic and reason, unnatural.
Gilania had leapt for the ball too and crashed into Baclem trying to reach the pass. Baclem did well to hang onto the ball even as he was put off balance by the elf hitting him. Time snapped back to normal. Gilania and Baclem tumbled to the ground. A series of whistles blew and Plex saw that one of Lavalanindarial’s Honor Guard, the referees for the match, had thrown a flag near where Baclem had caught the ball at the fifteen yard line.
Plex jogged down the field as the referees conferred on the call. The elf wasn’t sure what was going on and assumed they were going to penalize Baclem for some reason. When a troll and an elf clash, from his experience it was usually the troll who was at fault. Even now, in this game, not only was Plex concerned for his sister but he felt anger rising within at his own player for doing whatever he had done to cause the flag.
Only when Plex heard that it was passing interference did he realize what he had been thinking. He’d been letting his biases get the better of him. It was a weird feeling that he didn’t have time to deal with then. He needed to see the game out.
Coach Sprout declined the penalty and took the result of the play. Plex congratulated Baclem on the catch as they got back in the huddle for first down. Then the elf looked toward the sideline to see what Coach Sprout wanted them to run. The gnome called for a run but Glavven had limped off the field so Plex wasn’t sure who was supposed to get the ball in his place. He called a time-out and went to the sideline to confer with his coach.
“Who am I handing it to?”
The gnome smiled and said, “You could have let time run out on the play clock and taken the penalty. You didn’t need to call a timeout.”
Plex was confused, “Is that what you were hoping I would do?”
The gnome shook his head in the negative and said, “No. I was hoping you’d just assign the run in the huddle or do a fake and run it in yourself. We’ve only scripted out a couple plays and when I was telling you to do something that didn’t make sense I thought you might take it upon yourself to take charge and come up with a solution.”
As calmly as he could, Plex replied, “You made it perfectly clear I was only supposed to run the plays you called.”
The gnome smiled that knowing smile that Plex had truly grown to hate.