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 12

Revis and I are back with the next installment of our ongoing saga of fantasy and football. Read on to find out what happens next!

…..

The ball jerked free of Glavven’s hands as the minotaur went to the ground clutching at his injured leg.  The defending player who had hit Glavven with the tackle fell on the loose ball and then was set upon by Plex’s teammates in a giant pile of writhing bodies, all of them struggling to gain possession of the football.  A series of whistles blew as the officiating honor guard went through the process of slowly pulling the pile apart.

Plex was watching that, hoping that one of his own teammates had managed to get the ball back while also watching Glavven still writhing in pain a short distance from the heap.  If his running back was as badly injured as it appeared, that would severely hinder their ability to score points on the run.  

While possession was still trying to be sorted out, one of the honor guard motioned for someone on the sideline to come onto the field.  Plex had seen the dwarf before but hadn’t seen them take part in the any of practices so had assumed they were part of the staff that helped keep the team running off the field.  Then as the dwarf bent down next to Glavven, Plex saw the symbol woven into their version of the uniforms they all wore.  

“A healer!”  

That was great news.  Each team had a healer.  He remembered that now. It had been a cursory announcement made at the beginning of all of this madness, when the teams had first been formed by race and begun to assemble.  The elven healer had never bothered to show up for any of practices because the likelihood of any of them getting injured was so small and then Plex had promptly forgotten about them altogether.

“That’s right,” a voice said at his elbow. Turning, Plex saw that Coach Sprout had moved up next to him.  “And a very good one at that, based on our scouting report.”

Of course the gnome had scouted the healers.  The coach had probably scouted everyone’s extended families just to see understand where they came from.

“Hopefully, he can get Glavven patched up quickly.”

“I’m not worried about Glavven’s bones.  It will be his head that will be the problem after this.  Major injuries can take more of a mental toll than a physical one.  Glavven might play more timidly because he won’t want to get hurt again.  Or, he might throw himself into every challenge to try and prove his might and end up hurting himself more.  We are going to have to watch him.”

“’We’?”

“Yes.  While I will still call the plays, if you see something about him on the field that makes him a liability then I want you to do a throwing play instead and if none of the receivers are open, then just throw the ball downfield to nothing and we will take the penalty.”

Plex understood what he was being told but it ended up not mattering in the short term as the final players were pulled off the ball to reveal that the other team had gotten possession back after Glavven fumbled. He cursed. This close to their end zone, the other team was almost guaranteed a field goal attempt. Unless their defense moved the other team backwards, or created a turnover of their own, they would lose the lead here.

After the defense ran out onto the field, most of the rest of the team went over to the bench to check on Glavven. Plex wanted to as well, but saw no reason to join the crowd around the wounded minotaur. The healer was already having to tell players to back away. He didn’t want to add to that mess. So, he turned his attention to the action on the field.

Kalant expertly snuffed out another run on first down, tackling the other team’s ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage for a two yard loss. The dwarf ran off the field before the next play, replaced by a gnome named Daisy. On the next play, the other team threw it at their tight end, who was guarded by the diminutive defender. Daisy was in perfect position. She had played it just like she was supposed to. 

Unfortunately, the tight end was almost twice as tall as she was.

It was an easy catch for the other team. Fortunately, another defender tackled the pass catcher before he could advance the ball any more, but they gained ten yards. With only two yards needed to get the first down, Plex was expecting to see the dwarf go back into the game. He was surprised when it didn’t happen. Taking a quick look around to make sure none of his teammates could overhear, he bent down to Coach Sprout, who was still right next to him, and asked, “Why didn’t you put the dwarf back in?”

“Normally, I would,” Sprout answered, “because this is generally a running situation. However, this close to the end zone, the other team may decide to risk taking a shot at passing for a touchdown here. From their standpoint, it makes sense to do just that. Even if it’s incomplete, they still get their field goal attempt. Daisy is better in coverage than Kalant is.”

“Not if she’s matched up with the tight end. All they’d have to do is throw the ball high again and they’ve got a touchdown.”

“At least she’d be in the vicinity. That’s better odds than when Kalant blows his assignment and isn’t near the receiver.”

“Yeah, but you need him in there to rush the line to get the running back if it’s a rush.”

“And if it’s a pass?”

“I don’t know. He’d go past the line and hit the quarterback?”

Sprout’s eyes grew wide and he hurried over to the closest Honor Guard to call a timeout before the next play started. Plex didn’t think he’d get to them in time because both teams were lined up for the snap of the ball. The referee’s whistle blew just before the ball was hiked, stopping the play before it started. Sprout called the defense over to him and started speaking excitedly to them. They went back out onto the field a few moments later. This time, Kalant was with them.

The quarterback hiked the ball. As Sprout figured, it was a pass play. The tight end went out in a pattern, but the dwarf didn’t cover him. The safety did. Kalant was speeding like an arrow through the offensive line towards the quarteback.

Plex saw the quarterbacks’s eyes go wide ride before the dwarf slammed into him and they both went crashing into the ground.  The quarterback hadn’t had time to get rid of the ball and hadn’t thought to protect it by bringing it closer to his body. When Kalant hit him, the ball popped free and bounced in odd loops, tumbling end over end, away from the line of scrimmage and away from the end zone.

Kalant had seen the fumble and recovered faster than anyone else.  He sprang to his feet and picked up the ball in a smooth motion before pushing his legs into a full sprint.  The offense still seemed confused about what had happened and the dwarf had yards of open space all around him.  Time seemed to stand still for a minute with only Kalant moving down the green field. Then a few of the defensivemen recovered and began to give chase.

A particularly fast elf was closing the distance and it was going  to be close. The elf might just catch Kalant before the dwarf crossed into the end zone for a touchdown.  The thought triggered alarm bells in Plex’s mind. If Kalant got a touchdown that would drive the scores farther apart again and could potentially doom his sister.  

He clasped his hand behind his back to hide his agitation.  Coach Sprout had made his way back over to stand next to Plex and Plex didn’t want the gnome to see his concern.  As it was, the gnome was jumping up and down excitedly as Kalant drew closer to the end zone and Plex wasn’t sure how Coach Sprout could have done that and pay close enough attention to figure out that something was wrong but the gnome was crafty and it wasn’t worth the risk.

The defender lunged at Kalant and caught the dwarf’s trailing leg just before Kalant crossed the line.  The dwarf was strong though and kept his balance enough to ensure he stumbled over the line to get his team six points.  As he stood up he took the ball and threw it as hard as he could into the ground at his feet. The ball sprang up and away acrobatically.  Plex wasn’t sure what the point of that was but Kalant let out a scream of triumph before being swallowed by a throng of celebrating teammates.

Plex looked to the giant time glass.  There was still time. There was still plenty of time for the other team to score.  There was still time to make sure the game was close when it finished. There was still time to save his sister.

The elven quarterback breathed a sigh of relief and looked back to the field only to find Coach Sprout studying him again.  The gnome wore that infuriating, knowing, smile that Plex was growing to hate. Rather than look away, though, Plex stared at his coach.  

“Aren’t you happy we scored?  Aren’t you happy your idea worked so well?”

Plex didn’t respond.  There was no need to. Coach Sprout knew exactly how he was feeling in that moment.

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.”

Fantasy Football Part 8

Revis and I are back, once again, with more fantasy football action…  and now with actual game play.  Soooo, we’ve been writing for weeks and just now getting to the good part…  Yep, sounds like football to me.  What?  What?  You don’t agree?  Tell me about it in the comments.

Confused?  This link right HERE will take you back to the very first Fantasy Football post.

…..

A deathly silence fell upon the arena.  Even the spectators in the stands were too stunned and scared to mumble and grumble their displeasure with the dragon’s announcement.  They had come to see a game, mock battle that it may be, not a slaughter.  Would they have to watch as Lavalandinarial ate the team that lost by the most points?  The thought made more than one spectator blanch.  That might be their child, their sibling, their cousin, their friend.

Plex glanced towards his sister.  Even at that distance and with her face mostly covered by a helmet, he could see that she had gone even paler than normal.  He clenched his fists and jaw as he looked back to the dragon.

The beast, its wicked eyes gleaming, surveyed the field and the stands, daring any of them to speak against his proclamation.  None did, of course.  None wanted to become a pre-game snack for the massive creature.

Turning back towards his sister, Plex hoped to catch her eye and let her know that he would do whatever he could make the game close.  He couldn’t let her team win.  He just couldn’t.  He knew that about himself.  He needed to win but he wouldn’t let it be a demolition.  He wouldn’t sentence his sister to death.

As that thought went through his head, his hands clenched tighter and he heard a pop in his jaw from grinding his teeth too hard.  This was unacceptable.  There had to be something that could be done.  If all the teams refused to play, the dragon would change its mind.  It couldn’t kill them all at once.  But it could kill most of them before it flew away.

The people in the stands wouldn’t be armed.  They weren’t organized for an attack.  The beast could easily roast them and use its magic to ensorcell them before they could come up with some sort of plan.  Lavalandinarial had been smart to keep that rule change to itself until this late stage.  It denied them all an opportunity to do anything about it.

A group of the dragon’s honor guard, dressed in black and white striped garb, stepped onto the field.  One of them whistled for attention and called the captains out.  It was time to get started.  Coach Sprout motioned for Plex to take the honor and he jogged onto the field to see what happened next.

For those in the stands who didn’t know what was happening or couldn’t see, the dragon narrated, “We will now do something called a coin toss to determine how the game will start. The team that wins the toss chooses which team will receive the opening kickoff. The team that loses the toss gets to decide which side of the field they want to start on.  From what I’ve been able to scry, it is mostly ceremonial but we will proceed anyway.”

One of the honor guard took a large gold coin out of his pocket and held it up for Plex and the captain from the other team.   One side had the head of Lavalandinarial on it.  The other had the very stadium they were playing in.  Both sides were magically enhanced to show movement.  The head of the dragon twisted around and its eyes darted around.  The banners representing the eight teams waved and the roaring sconces flickered on the stadium side.

“Which side do you think the coin will land on?”

The other team’s captain, a very beefy ogre, appeared to be confused by the question. “The stadium?” it finally said when it saw the troll Honor Guard becoming impatient.

Had the stakes not been so big, Plex would’ve found the ogre’s confusion funny. As it stood, he was doing his best to keep his mind on what was happening in front of him and not allow it to wander. If it wandered, it could negatively affect his play. That was something he couldn’t allow. If he was going to survive this, and keep his sister safe at the same time, he needed to be playing at his absolute best.

His eyes flicked to the spinning coin that was falling to the ground. The coin hit, bounced up, and fell back down. When it came to a rest, it was the arena that faced up. The rotund ogre grinned stupidly, happy that it had won the toss, but still not knowing what that meant. Plex thought the troll was going to smack the ogre. In fact, the trolls arm twitched in what Plex was sure would be a backhand strike, but it held it in check.

“Do you want your team to kick the ball first, or receive it?” the troll angrily demanded.

“We want ball,” the ogre said, taking a defensive step back.

Turning to Plex, the troll asked, “What end zone do you want to go towards?”

Plex closed his eyes for a moment and felt which way the wind was blowing. It was better to play with the wind at your back, he reminded himself. If you played into the wind, you couldn’t throw or kick the ball as far. “That one,” he said as he pointed to the end zone behind him.

The two captains were then forced into shaking each other’s hands by the Honor Guard before being allowed to go back to their sideline. Coach Sprout didn’t bother to give a rousing speech before the game started. He just ordered the kickoff team onto the field. Plex watched as his team’s orc kicker booted the ball down the field. This attempt was a lot better than the first couple of kicks he had seen the orc make. This kick had the ball go all the way into the end zone.

An elf caught the ball for the other team and began running up the field with it. Plex was surprised that the elf didn’t kneel down and take a touchback, where the ball would be automatically be placed on the 25 yard line. He hoped his team would make the elf’s decision to run the ball out be a mistake. It looked like his hope would come true when the elf ran into the first of Plex’s teammates at the 12 yard line.

Plex’s dwarven teammate had the elf in his sight and moved in for a vicious hit. The elf juked to his left, leaving the dwarf hugging air before falling face first into the turf. A minotaur had the next chance for a tackle, but he also missed. The elf cut to the right to avoid another tackle and before Plex knew what was happening, the elf had passed every member of his team. Plex could only watch helplessly as the elf crossed the goal line for a touchdown.

A tentative applause developed into a roar from the stadium as they realized that something good had happened on the field.  Plex looked around the stands.  He wasn’t sure what he was looking for but he felt like he needed to see something.  His eyes caught on a small group of dwarves that were still seated on the stone benches, arms across their chests.  While the rest of the gathered throng cheered the touchdown, these dwarves were not moved by what they had seen.  Either they had a relative on Plex’s team or they found the whole thing ridiculous.  Plex made a note to check on them again throughout the game.

Lavalandinarial spoke over the roar of the crowd, “Congratulations on scoring the first touchdown.  I’m very pleased with that.”

The dragon’s voice seemed to have a calming effect on the crowd and everyone settled down.  The other team sent their kicking team on for a point after attempt.  Their kicker sent it wide left.  It wasn’t due to anything other than the kicker sending it that way.

The dragon seemed to huff in amusement at the mistake and a small tendril of smoke rose from its left nostril.  Plex couldn’t seem to move his focus away from the mighty beast and time slipped as the teams swapped out and their opponents sent their weak kick-off tumbling end over end just beyond the thirty yard line.

Their minotaur running back, rushing forward from the goal line where’d he been waiting, picked up the ball and pushed forward.  The minotaur brushed off two attempted tackles by an ogre and an orc before finally being tackled by a lunging troll.  The impact of the two of them crashing into the turf finally brought Plex out of his distracted reverie.

The return had been a good one and the ball was now at their opponents’ 30 yard line, well within field goal range.  Plex was happy about that.  They were only two field goals away from tying up the game if it came to that but he was confident he’d be able to get a touchdown shortly.  He had never failed to get one in practice.  This should be no different.

With a shake of his head, Plex put on his helmet and started to run out onto the field.  Coach Sprout called out, “Look to me for which play to run.”  Plex nodded in understanding and joined his huddled offensive.  Their coach mouthed the play, Plex relayed that to his teammates and they broke to form their attacking line.

Everything faded away.  His sister.  The dragon.  The crowd.  Plex’s vision narrowed to focus on the center, the line moving into position around him and the eyes of the defensive line that flicked back and forth trying to read the play that was about to be run against them.

When his team was set, Plex yelled, “Hike!”  The ball was in his hands.  He rolled backwards to give himself some space.  He faked a throw downfield and then handed off the ball to his runningback.  The minotaur quickly made it back to the line of scrimmage and then pushed forward, shrugging off one tackle after another until only a troll stood between him and the goalline.

The minotaur stiffed armed the troll just as the defender lunged forward, the effect sent the minotaur hurtling over the top of the troll and into the end zone for a touchdown.  Plex lifted his hands in triumph.  The minotaur hurled the ball at the ground where it popped with a hissing snap that was lost beneath the appreciative roar of the crowd.

And the winner is…

A few weeks ago, I asked all you wonderful kingdomites to join in a game of blogosphere tug-of-war…  In this addition, the contest was between Team Coke and Team Pepsi.

I should have realized that something was amiss when the first backer came in to support the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (it’s a thing, I promise)….

And then, for a time, the game dissolved into chaos.  Bloggers were tugging in every which way, and I thought it was going to have to be abandoned altogether.

But then!!!  But then Team Coke showed up, and heaved, and pulled, and tugged, and won in a landslide.

Unfortunately, our official kingdom tally keeper quit, so I don’t have the exact numbers for you.

You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Hey, I’m a Jester.  You can definitely trust me.  Definitely.  I assure you.  Believe me.

Thank you to all the players and CONGRATULATIONS to Team Coke, who once and for all have decided the age old battle of the sodas, colas, pops, carbonated sugary drinks of deliciousness…