By L. Stewart Marsden
Chapter One: To Dream the Impossible Dream
Scott Jeffries stepped up to his offensive line and looked over the defensive secondary. Three linebackers jostled positions, stepping up and away from the line as if to blitz, shifting to the sides.
He fastened his chin strap and slid his hands under the butt of his center, bending down to call out the count.
“Jerzee — mark down,” he shouted down one side of the line, then repeated it to the other side.
He raised his right foot up and back down, signaling the split wideout, who turned and trotted towards Jeffries.
“Chet! Hut! . . . Hut-hut!” he barked.
The football slapped against his open hands, and Jeffries turned and faked a handoff to the wideout, then danced back three steps, looking downfield. He planted his right foot.
Kajil Moore sprinted forward from his split position and drove the defensive corner back. He feigned right, just enough for the defender to take the bait, then suddenly skirted left towards the sidelines.
Jeffries had already launched the pass — a bullet spiral, down and outside — away from the defender. Moore dove for the ball, his gloved hands cradling the pigskin inches from the ground, and rolled with the reception.
“Great pass, great catch!” erupted John Hutchison, head coach of the Trinity U Devils. “That’s the way we need to run it every goddam time!” he shouted. “Why the hell can’t the first squad do that? Tell me?”
“Okay, second squad to sprints — first team, let’s run the quarterback gadget play till we get it right.”
Jeffries pulled his helmet off and tried to stanch the flow of sweat from his head down his face with the sweat band on his wrist. He stood a moment to watch the first squad — the starters — huddle together on the practice field. The sun had dipped well below the tree-lined border that cupped the field away from all but approved eyes.
Taj Butterfield stood and growled out the snap count.
“That’s where I’m going to be one day,” thought Jeffries as he shielded his eyes with one hand from the dipping sun to watch the play develop.
Butterfield took the snap and rolled to his left, handing off to Jason Tripp, his wide receiver, who sprinted back into the backfield and grabbed the ball as if to run a sweep right. Tripp stopped suddenly, and looked back and threw a pass to Butterfield, who was wide open in the left flat.
“Finally!” shouted Hutchison. “We are gonna catch Tech goddam flatfooted as a flounder on dry land, Gentlemen! Shit! Huddle up!”
The starters grouped together while their coach gave one or two quick encouragements, then shouted in unison “One – two – three Devils!”
“Run it again!” he ordered, and the hulking athletes broke the huddle to line up once more.
In three days the Trinity Devils would travel down to middle Florida to face the Techtronics — the number one-ranked Division I football team in the nation. Responsible for that ranking, according to most of the sports gurus, was Jamaal Salem, a second-year phenom at quarterback who led the Techtronics to an undefeated season — and the national BCS championship — the year prior.
Salem was six feet five inches of pure ego — and for a reason. He threw, scrambled, ran and boasted his way to more than 40 touchdown passes on over 4,000 total yards throwing. In addition, the 230-pound QB tiptoed across the end zone for four additional running touchdowns. He was hands-down the overwhelming selection for the Heisman Trophy.
Like most Division I schools, teams of lesser quality — or at least teams that presented little to no threat — were scheduled for the first three games. That was so powerhouse programs like Tech could iron out any hitches in their offenses or defenses. It also gave the team a sense of winning — which was critical to success once conference play began.
Normally that worked. But every once-in-a-while, a cinderella team inexplicably upset a powerhouse. That happened when virtually unknown Appalachian State knocked off Michigan.
The odds were slim, of course, but every player and coach and trainer — anyone associated with the Trinity program — dreamed and hoped for the impossible: an upset over Tech.
And, over Salem in particular, who brashly boasted the Techtronics would crush Liberty like a steamroller smashing a clod of dirt.
Salem also promised more than 400 yards passing, as well as three passing touchdowns.
“What I wouldn’t give to shut his mouth with a win,” Jeffries said aloud in the locker room as he punched Kajil Moore in the arm.
“Hey, man! I’m gonna catch the winning touchdown! You watch and see if I don’t,” he returned, his muscular black torso glistening from his shower.
“Amen!” echoed throughout the steamy room, and two or three hulking linemen slammed their giant paws on their lockers, beating out a rhythm.
One of the linebackers began to sing “To Dream the Impossible Dream” at the top of his lungs.
Someone began to chant, “Tri – ni -ty! Tri – ni – ty! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” until the entire team was caught up in the shouting and slamming and dancing — like a war dance — which continued and escalated until the poignant moment a trainer stuck his head in the room and shouted,
“Hey, you guys! Know what just happened to Taj? He’s out for the season!”
And that’s when everyone awoke from the Impossible Dream.