Fantasy Football Part 16

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.

 

Fantasy Football Part 14

The time has come once again for Fantasy Football!  Like, legit fantasy football, with elves and dwarves and a particularly nasty dragon, all courtesy of the imagination of Revis and myself.  Not sure what I’m talking about?  Part 1 is here.

Let’s see, some quick math, at around 1,500 words per post and 14 posts (so far), that’s just shy of 20,000 fantastically footbally words already!  That’s a lot.  And we aren’t done yet.  Dive on in to the next installment.  And the leave us a note to let us know what you think should happen next.

……

Plex had missed the play, his attention fully on watching the fate of Foyarlen instead, but not wanting to see Lavandinarial lick her lips he forced himself to focus on the game again.  The opposing team, somewhat surprising, set up for a point after kick rather than go for two points.  Plex figured since it was a two possession game they likely wanted to go for the sure thing rather than risk being even more points behind.

The kick was good and the teams shuffled around for the kick-off.  His players seemed somewhat subdued.  Some of them had seen what happened to Foyarlen and they had spread the word in furtive whispers.  Plex saw heads casting glances towards the dragon as helmets were dragged on and they jogged onto the field.

Plex didn’t know what the elf’s problem had been and why he started to act so aggressive but he was angrier with the dragon.  This was her show, of course, her game to play as she pleased but the fact that the beast could pick them off as she pleased at any time suddenly made the threat of them all getting eaten if they lost less important.  The threat was already there, win or lose.

Giliana stretched on the opposite sideline.  He smiled, a sad sort of twist of his lips, as he realized why she had shown no hesitation earlier in the game.  She had always been smarter than him.  She had already realized the danger.  And now that Plex knew it too, he felt his stomach drop when he remembered the play he had purposefully botched.  If Lavalandrial had suspected anything she could have killed him then.  Knowing the whims of the dragon, the beast might have chosen to accuse the whole team of cheating and award the other team victory, dooming Plex and all his teammates to a grisly fate.

He couldn’t help the shiver that ran up his spine.  He wanted to look over at the dragon and see where her focus was but he kept his eyes on the game.

Their back-up running back was doing a fine job of returning the kick.  Less straight forward than the injured minotaur, the back-up was strategically hiding behind larger blockers and then darting forward in spurts to pick up yards.  He was then finally tackled right around the halfway line.

Plex took a steadying breath and sprinted onto the field.  He looked to Coach Sprout for the play but the gnome did not immediately relay it.  The gnome was conferring with one of the other coaches and Plex was worried that they were going to run out of time.  But then the time glass reached its end and the honor guard announced the end of the third quarter.

While the teams changed sides of the field, Plex ran over to Coach Sprout.  “What’s the problem?”

“We are drawing up a trick play.”

Plex wanted to ask if that was wise.  They still had the lead.  They had control of the ball.  They could do run plays to waste time and see out the game for a victory.  It seemed like a mistake to take a risk.  But then he thought about Foyarlen and he kept his tongue in check.

The Honor Guard whistled, signaling the start of the final quarter. Coach Sprout and his fellow coaches were still talking animatedly about the play they were trying to create. From the looks of it, not all of the other coaches agreed with what Sprout was trying to do. They were smart enough not to make a scene of it, though. Seeing another member of their team, coach or player, get eaten by Lavalandinarial would be catastrophic for their morale.

“Coach,” Plex urged. “I need a play. If I don’t run one soon, we’ll get a penalty.”

“Run a toss play to the far side of the field with Meel,” a frustrated Sprout replied. “When the play is over, come back over here and we’ll have the next one ready.”

Plex darted back out to the field and got his team lined up into their correct positions. They barely got the ball hiked before time ran out. He turned to his left and tossed the ball behind him to Meel, their backup running back. The orc caught it and pivoted to rush straight ahead instead of towards the sideline like the play called for. Plex’s initial reaction was one of irritation at not following the play, but then he saw why the orc had done it.

Gilania had read the play perfectly and had blocked off Meel’s path to the outside. The orc was not as big as Glavven and wasn’t able to bowl his way over defenders like the minotaur. He was more agile, and he used that agility to try to make defenders miss when they went to tackle him. Meel cut completely back to the right and avoided a troll who was bearing down on him. A dwarf caught up with him, but not before Meel had turned what would have been a two yard loss into a three yard gain.

Plex ran over to the sideline and listened as Coach Sprout explained the play. The gnome seemed excited about it, but he wasn’t so sure. It wasn’t that different from plays they already had. Still, he wasn’t going to argue with his coach anymore. The consequences of such an action loomed large in the back of his mind, which was precisely what the dragon wanted. After hearing the full explanation, he ran back out to the field and told the rest of his team their assignments.

Meel lined up in the quarterback position while Plex was out at wide receiver. Right before the ball was hiked, he ran towards the orc. By the time Meel received the ball, Plex was almost right next to him. The orc handed the ball to him and Plex shifted his vision upfield. As he feared, the defense didn’t fall for the deception. His receivers were still covered. He had enough confidence in his arm that he knew he could fit a throw into one of them, but he saw a much safer option.

Because the defense had stayed with the receivers, he had room in front of him to run the ball. He would at least make it to the first down marker before he would encounter the first defensive player. Plex tucked the ball and ran forward.

He passed the first down marker before he realized that the defense had basically stopped to watch him run.  He’d gained another five yards before some of them woke up enough to charge toward him.  Plex began to angle his run towards the sideline, hoping he could step out of bounds before getting tackled.

Meel suddenly appeared ahead of him and blocked off a defensive player that gotten in a good position to take Plex down.  The elf side-stepped a lunging orc, spun around a dwarf, and then tip-toed along the sideline, barely staying in bounds.  But, there was nothing but open space ahead of him.  The only thing he had to worry about was another elf catching up to him.  None of the other players would be fast enough.

He glanced over his shoulder and saw two players trying to gain on him.  Their long, graceful strides meant they had to be elves.  Plex wondered if one of them was his sister.  He didn’t think she’d be on the field when he’d started the play but maybe she had been.  It didn’t matter either way, neither of the players would be able to get to him before he crossed into the end zone.

He ducked his head down and churned his legs even faster.  The feel of the air pushing against him was exhilarating.  But then his trailing foot caught on something as it tried to come forward.  It felt like a root, which he knew was impossible.  He tried to maintain his balance and he staggered a bit but then it was like the ground had been pulled from beneath his feet and there was nothing to get purchase on.  He was falling.

His momentum sent him sprawling and tumbling head over heels.  At some point the ball popped loose but he knew that didn’t matter because he had been officially down the first time he hit the ground.   He came to a rest around the ten yard line and just lay there for a few seconds taking stock of the various aches and pains that called out for his attention.

One of his teammates offered him a hand up and he took it.  Everything was eerily quiet, like the sound had been sucked out of the stadium, and he walked in a daze towards the rest of his team to set up the next play but then someone took him by the arm and escorted him off the field.  He was confused but went without argument.

Coach Sprout was in his face the next moment and was saying something but Plex couldn’t get ahold of the words.  It was like the coach was speaking a language he had learned long ago but no longer remembered.  Plex shook his head trying to clear the cobwebs but that didn’t help.  Coach looked mad.  He could tell that much.

Plex took a seat and stared out at the field.  Something odd was going on.  A play was happening but that couldn’t be because he wasn’t out there with his teammates.  He stood up to run back onto the field but someone pushed him back down.  He shook his head again and again that did nothing to help.

Looking up, Plex saw that the crowd appeared to be celebrating something.  He shifted his eyes towards the end zone but before he could figure out what had happened he locked gazes with the dragon.  It felt like his innards dropped to the field and were set ablaze.  Lavalandinarial’s eyes burned.

Fantasy Football Part 10

Can you believe we keep coming back with more of these?  And, I might be a bit biased but I think they are getting better as we go along.  So, check out the next installment below and show Revis and I some love with some comments.

…..

As the other team’s point after attempt was converted successfully, Plex berated his receiver, “What happened?  That pass was perfect!”

The elf bowed his head in shame and responded quietly, “I don’t know.  I was focusing on where the ball was going to be and my legs got tangled.”

Plex wanted to vent his frustration further but quickly calmed.  If he hadn’t botched their previous drive himself, they wouldn’t be in this mess.  And, how could his sister have so willingly driven up the score.  Wasn’t she worried about him, her brother, getting eaten by the dragon?

Plex patted his receiver comfortingly on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry.  Next time out, you’ll catch a touchdown pass.  I’m sure of it.  You’ve got good hands and you are faster than almost everyone else out here.  I’ll make sure it happens.”

The elf nodded but said nothing in response.  Plex looked across the field to try and pick out his sister.  He expected to find her in some level of distress at least.  Her team was on a path to send him to his doom.  What he saw shocked him, though.  She was still celebrating with her new teammates.  They were boisterous and carefree.

Looking away, Plex saw Coach Sprout watching him closely.  The gnome had that infuriating knowing smile on his face.  The quarterback started to make his way towards the coach but got blocked on his way by the teams swapping out.

Plex caught sight of Glavven and said, “Now.  Do it now.  Ram it down their throats.  Give this run everything you got and let’s return the kick-off for a touchdown.  You’ve got this.”

The minotaur snorted, his nostrils flaring a darker shade of red than normal, and then the hulking running back turned and jogged into position.  Coach Sprout forgotten for the moment, Plex watched the coming play with an intense need.  It burned red hot in his belly.  He couldn’t remember ever needing something so badly before.

Glavven pulled the ball out of the air on the five yard line and began running diagonally towards the far sideline.  Their team was doing a great job of keeping the defense off him but then an orc broke free.  Plex held his breath but then let it out in a large puff of excitement as Glavven straight armed the orc aside and sprinted on.

The minotaur spun away from another attempted tackle and then jumped over a lunging defensiveman.  And then he was clear.  Plex leapt into the air and nearly sprinted down the length of the sideline to celebrate with the runningback.  The horde of his teammates wildly celebrating, in his way, was all that kept him from doing so.  The whistle blew for the end of the first half just before Glavven crossed into the endzone.

The score now stood at 23 to 20.  Coach Spout yelled for Plex to get in there and go for the additional points.  If he could score that would put them back at only a point away.  That would be good enough.  He would take a defeat of only one point.  But he knew that there was still a full half to play and given how freely both teams were scoring, he wasn’t sure if he could stick to his plan to not score on every drive.

He jogged onto the field and got his team in a huddle. Coach Sprout called a running play, but he could tell that Glavven was winded. The minotaur was taking deep, hurried breaths. “This play’s for you,” Plex said to his running back. “You going to be able to do this?”

“I’ve got enough left in me for a few yards,” Glavven managed between gulps of air.

Plex wanted to believe him, but he had been told that minotaurs were a prideful race. It was entirely possible that Glavven would claim to be okay even if he wasn’t. Converting on this two point attempt would give them a good momentum boost and lift his team’s confidence going into halftime. He didn’t want to risk blowing that because his running back was in worse shape than he let on.

A glance at Coach Sprout told him that the gnome was getting impatient about the delay. Plex was still uneasy, but he knew that he had to run the play as called. If he changed it up, all he’d do is anger both Glavven and Coach Sprout. There was still a half of football to play. It was too early to do his own thing right now.

His team got up on the line. Plex waited until the last possible second to call for the ball. The ball hit his hands and he hoped that Glavven had caught his breath. He turned and handed the ball to the big minotaur. Gilania’s team had expected this and had stacked the line of scrimmage. Glavven ran into a wall of bodies and Plex lost visual on him. The Honor Guard referees ran in to clear the pile and when they uncovered Glavven, the ball was laying on the goal line.

Plex and his teammates erupted into cheers, because that meant that the try was successful. The other team burst out in protest, claiming that Glavven reached it out after he was already down. The referees appeared to be confused. Not knowing what else to do, the head referee, the troll, looked to the dragon for guidance.

Everyone else in the arena did the same. Soon every eye was on Lavalandinarial, waiting for him to pass judgment on the play. The dragon was enjoying all of the attention, Plex knew. Lavalandinarial purposefully took its time to render the verdict. With a slow, lazy motion, the dragon gave a thumbs down. Gilania’s team jumped up in excitement while Plex and his teammates had to hold Glavven back.

“Don’t,” Plex yelled harshly as the entire offensive line worked to pull the enraged minotaur back to their sideline. He slapped Glavven softly across the face to get his attention. Once the angry eyes of Glavven were fixed on him, he continued. “Do you want to end up in the beast’s belly? Because if you do, we’ll let you go right now so you can be eaten.” That finally seemed to get through to the minotaur. “If you’d rather stay alive, I suggest you calm down and help us win this damned game.”

Glavven snorted but no longer pulled to get away from Plex.  The two of them turned away and followed the rest of the two teams off to their sides of the field.  Coach Sprout was having his assistants pass around a liquid that tasted sweet but was obviously mostly water.

When Plex raised an eyebrow questioningly, the Coach said, “The cooks have worked up this special brew that will replace a lot of the essential things your body burns during exercise.  So, it should keep you sharper in the second half than if you didn’t drink it.”

Plex turned back to Glavven to give the runningback another confidence boosting talk but he felt a tug on his elbow and looked down to see Coach Sprout still standing there.  “I need a word with you.”

The gnome walked away and Plex followed.  They weaved through the throng of teammates, until the hit a patch of open sideline and then carried on for a few more yards until they were nearly at the goal line.

“Take a knee.”

Plex did as instructed.  He was still much taller than the gnome but was as face to face as he could get without bending over further.  He wouldn’t do that unless asked.

At first Coach Sprout said nothing.  He just seemed to study the elf.  Plex met the coach’s gaze easily.  While he had initially been worried that he was in trouble and the coach was going to pull him from the game he decided that was unlikely.  If Coach had been upset with him he would have been pulled immediately after the offending play.  Or, rather, if Coach had trusted anyone other than Plex to drive the team to victory he would have already made the swap.

Finally, Coach Sprout said, “Don’t do it again.”

It was the elf’s turn to be silent.  He would not make a promise he wasn’t sure he could keep.  Elves could be every bit as prideful as minotaurs.  He would not tarnish his honor by agreeing with Coach now while he might still potentially need to miss some plays to save his sister’s life.

“I know your sister is on the other team.  I know you won’t want her to die.  And I know you certainly don’t want to be taken out of the game where you will no longer have control over the results.  So, I will say it once more.  Don’t do it again.”

Still Plex said nothing.  He wasn’t sure what he could say at that point.  His mind scrambled for some way to placate Coach Sprout while leaving open the possibility that he could intentionally keep his own team from scoring.

“You are not the only person with family on other teams.”

Plex cocked his head sideways and studied the gnome.  If Coach Sprout was referring to himself he made no additional indication, but still what the coach had said made sense.  He and Gilania would not be the only siblings that had been split when the dragon mixed the teams.

Coach Sprout sighed and looked away.  “Our defense is not strong enough to stop their offense.  We will work on that if we can advance to the next round.  I am certain that we can come back and win this game but that will only happen if you play to your best.  I think you will do that.  I think you have already started to realize that and so in the next half you will go out give your best.

“I need you to understand, though, that if you purposefully mess up one of the plays again trying to keep the score close, I will inform the dragon.”