The Kick

The linebacker stood above the prone quarterback and roared approval at his own vicious hit. He brought his elbows into his side, clenched his fists, then raised both arms so that the high school crowd could see his biceps flex in the dimming light of the fourth quarter.

“Tackle by Number 54, Pippin,” said the announcer, in a monotone voice that did not convey the excitement on the field.

“Get up, make it happen!” screamed the head coach at his quarterback, and then to anyone else in earshot who might listen. “Just get up. Spike it!”

The quarterback hopped up and waved his men into formation. A whistle blew, he took the snap, and slammed the ball into the ground.

“Forty-five seconds,” said the same dull voice through the crackling white speakers. “Timeout Blue Devils.”

The players from both teams stood in the middle of the field while the quarterback nodded affirmatively to his coach. He refused the Gatorade bottle, just as Samson might have done.

“Son, we are down just two points. You cannot take a sack like that. All we need is a field goal to win, and Henderson can kick from forty. Most days he can kick from forty, but get closer if you can. You have time for two or three plays. Just be calm and it will be fine. Just throw to the sidelines, because we have no timeouts.”

“I can do it, coach!”

“Remember, just don’t take a sack.”

“Blue Devils on the 47-yardline of the Cavaliers. Second down and 18, and Henderson is beginning to warm up.”


The holder turned and looked at the kicker. “Did you see that Henderson? I don’t think we’re going to get into your range, but if we do, you just have to give it all you’ve got. You just have to believe in yourself.”

“You hold it, I’ll kick it,” said Henderson, coming across like a fake version of John Wayne. His stomach was churning and he was hoping that they would get close enough to give him a chance before his false bravado ran away from him. He had already missed tonight, and that’s why his team was down.


“Pass complete to Number 44, Williamson. Second down. Nineteen seconds left on the clock.”

“Run a slant, get me 10 yards and out of bounds!” And on the sidelines a team manager held up a large poster of Spongebob Squarepants, which signaled to the team what their next play would be - slant right.

“Quarterback takes the ball, runs to the right, passes to the tight end. Referee signals complete, clock stopped. Eight seconds in the game.”


Henderson continued to kick into the net on the sidelines, trying to visualize the goal posts at 40 yards. But he did not believe in himself. He had already missed tonight. But it’s OK, no one would blame him if he missed another long one. But what if it’s close? What if they give me a 20 yard try?


“High snap, quarterback Number 12 runs right again and throw it out of bounds.”

The coach screams with a shrill, “Get my kicker out there, get Henderson out there!”


Henderson and his holder tear from the sidelines and quickly line up. The center is breathing hard and the referee is swinging his arm like a windmill. Just as the ball is snapped, a whistle blows.

“Time out, Centennial.”

“They’re trying to ice you, Henderson. Come in here and stand on the sidelines. Get it out of your head. You’ve done this in practice plenty of times, no problem.”

Henderson turned to look away from the field and all he could see was a crowd of blue and white, and the pretty cheerleaders who would never say hi to him in the hallways. Maybe that would change tonight, because he did believe in himself. He could kick that ball and he could be the hero. The team was counting on him and every bit of his 16-year-old self was going to be driven into that ball. He would not miss. He could not miss.

“Time’s up,” said the coach. “You’ve got this one, son. Win it for us.”


There was a silence to his right as the home crowd fell hushed, but to his left the visitor section was going wild. His holder stepped up and said, “It’s a long kick, but we really need this win. Give it all you’ve got, Jim.”

“Blue Devils set for the kick, Henderson Number 17 steps it off and nods. Snap is wobbly but the holder has it. Kick is up!”

Henderson is hit and falls to the ground, holding his head. He wasn’t sure, he didn’t know, he couldn’t look. It was quiet.


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