The crowd was going wild! The lights were flashing everywhere, and as soon as I heard those sweet words, “Introducing #10 wide receiver Kelli Shane,” all of my nerves went away. It was game time! The crowd chanted, “Kelli, Kelli, Kelli.” I felt myself being shaken, and I sleepily looked up at my older brother.
“Chandler! I was in the middle of the best dream ever.”
“It’s not my fault; you’ve got a big day it’s time for you to get some nutrients in you.” I slowly got out of my comfortable, queen sized bed and drew the curtains back. Dickens, Texas still looked the same and it always would. I squinted to see our population of three hundred all outside the school waiting for us to make our appearance. Well they would have to wait because as usual I was running late. As quickly as I could I gathered my duffle bag and suitcase that I had been smart enough to pack the night before. Since today was a special day I decided to curl my hair and apply a little make up. I would have cameras shoved in my face all night and I wanted to look presentable. As I lugged all my bags and football gear down the stairs my family all stared at me while I struggled. I really appreciated the help!
“There’s our little star,” dad said.
“Sure, sure I’m hungry where’s breakfast?”
“On the table dear,” my mother pointed in the direction of the breakfast nook. The aroma of my favorite foods made me smile. The plate was full of eggs, bacon, and a fresh orange, just looking at it all made my mouth water.
“So what’s your game plan today?”
“I’m not completely sure, I know I’m sticking to the right side at least I think that’s what coach has me doing.”
“I think you need to take more charge out there, I get that you feel intimidated when it comes to dodging tackles but if you just keep cutting to the left and the right the other team won’t know what hit them.” Leave it all to Chandler, he never agrees with coach even though if it wasn’t for coach Jackson he would have never made it to Ole Miss and if he hadn’t made it there he certainly wouldn’t have made it into the NFL.
“I am not intimidated by anyone or anything, just make me a protein shake and let me handle the football stuff.”
“Hey now, your brother has great talent you could learn from him.” There goes dad always sticking up for him, at least he’s learned to keep quiet. My first few years of varsity football were all about him; what he would have done, what he should have done…hello dad you made it to the NFL I wouldn’t be complaining if I were you.
Our argument about what I should do and what I shouldn’t do went on and on and on until finally mom interrupted us all and ushered us toward the car. I looked at our SUV in shock, it had my name written all over and our team colors blue and gold were displayed proudly. The inside of the car was dead quiet, but the town was not. Every business in town had a “Go Bears” sign plastered to the window, the streets were painted in blue and gold, there was confetti everywhere, and everyone was wearing their school shirts today. As we neared the school we saw the entire town huddled around the bus that would drive us ten hours to the arena we would play my final game in, the championship game.
As I got out of the car I straightened my varsity football t-shirt and examined myself in the reflection. These boots went perfect with my ripped, denim skinny jeans and the gold headband was a nice touch.
“Stop being so girly and come help us with your bags,” Chandler always liked to make fun of my girly side. Just because I hold all the records for a wide receiver in the state of Texas doesn’t mean I have to look and act like a guy. We all made our way to the bus and loaded my bags in. To the side the cheerleaders caught my eye; they were wishing all the players good luck and being their natural, perky selves. I was very appreciative of the fact that they would not be riding on the bus with us. Coach gathered the entire town, players, and parents and gave his usual speech. We all prayed and then it was time to say goodbye, I’m not sure why the coaches make us say goodbye to our parents they usually were driving right behind the bus, but I suppose it’s a town tradition and we didn’t all have overly supportive parents.
I, of course was the last one to board the bus because I had a dad and brother who wouldn’t shut up about their good old days and memories in high school. They both had played for Dickens High and they both hold records and state championship rings. I guess you could say the pressure is on. I looked for an empty row, but there wasn’t one. This was a price I had to pay for having the JV team tag along. I didn’t have a problem with JV they all had a problem with me. If I was a guy I would probably be mad too; I started out my freshman year on JV but not even one practice into the season Coach Jackson said he just had to have me on his varsity team. Since that day I’ve always been starting varsity. I took a seat next to Gabriel, who was the teams quarterback. We were both seniors this year, and this would be our last championship game.
“You ready for this Kelli?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.”
“That’s not a great attitude.”
“I’m just nervous that’s all.”
“We have been playing football together since we were in diapers, you never get nervous.”
“I know, but this is a championship game.”
“Do you see these three championship pins on my jacket? These are here because of us, three games down one to go. You weren’t nervous in any other games.”
“This one just feels different. This is our last game our last chance to get noticed.”
“It feels the same to me.”
“Okay well maybe because you’re Mr. every college in the universe wants me as a quarterback.”
“You’ll get your chance, you’re an amazing player. Someone will notice,” but what if he was wrong? What if this is my last game ever? No college is going to commit to signing a girl, they never have and I highly doubt they ever will. I know there will be college scouts from almost every university at this championship state game, that’s where they all hide out. It’s like their home, they stand on the sidelines observing the players waiting for them to trip, waiting for them fumble, waiting for an interception, waiting for any little mess up that can take that players name off of their pretty, little, exclusive list.
The ten hours went by so fast; there were laughs, team chants, and talks about different strategies. Soon we were at the doors of the arena.
“Listen up team, the second we enter the double doors cameras and reporters will be in your face. Don’t give out any game information, just smile and get it over with. Then go into our locker room and put all your gear away.” Everyone was excited and extremely jumpy as they made their way to the stadium door. I held back and took in the arena’s atmosphere. This year we were playing where the big dogs play, tomorrow would be the day I took the same field as Matt Shaub and JJ Watt. I took one step into the building and my jaw dropped. The green turf was shining bright, and it gave my eyes a matching twinkle. The stands were empty, but would be filled tomorrow. My eyes shut and I heard all those screaming fans in my head, cheering for me to keep running to the end zone. My family was the loudest, of course, I could hear Chandler yelling and screaming until his face turned red, and I could almost see mom holding her home made sign. The lights flashing in my face brought me back to reality. I had a tall, built man with a microphone looking into my eyes. His partner who was shorter and fatter held the camera with the red button flashing indicating it was on and ready to make me look like a fool.
“Hello Miss. Shane could we ask you a few questions?” I wanted to ask him if I even had a choice, these interviews were an unspoken rule when it came to state championships. It was a time for all the players to psych the other team out with trash talk, and cockiness. It’s a lot tougher than it sounds, it’s a skill that all the members on my varsity team have mastered; I on the other hand am a little rusty with that art. I simply nodded to the reporter and held my breath for the first question. “You have won three state championships and this will be your fourth chance at one, how does this make you feel?”
“I’m excited, but I like to treat it just like every other game.”
“What are your future college plans?” They just had to ask that question.
“I’m just not umm; I’m just not sure right now.”
“Are you saying you haven’t had any offers?”
“I’m not saying anything like that I’m just not sure what I want to do yet,” biggest lie I’ve ever told. I knew what I wanted to do, but whether that’s what the college league has planned I don’t know. The reporter seemed ticked off at my response. He immediately tensed up, and sweat started to form on his brow. His eyes narrowed in on me like he was determined to see me choke.
“I have one more question…do you think you have a disadvantage because you’re a girl?” The second he asked this question it was my turn to tense up, it was my turn to sweat, and it was my turn to get mad.
“I can do anything any of these guys can do; in fact maybe I can do it better. Thanks for the interview!” I walked off frustrated, and I’m almost positive everyone could see the steam coming out of my ears. I was over these interviews and wanted to go settle into the hotel. I walked back toward the entrance/exit and overheard the Chief’s defensive back player’s interview. I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard my name mentioned.
“I’m here with Chief’s defensive back Zachery Gona, now Zach are you nervous about the Bear’s best wide receiver Kelli Shane?”
“She’s a girl, why would I be nervous? I don’t know what the big hype about her is she’s not even that good, I’m just waiting for the time she comes out in her cute, little, pink tutu.” My face turned red and I’m pretty sure I could breathe fire right now. Who did this kid think he was? I marched over to the interview section. Without a second thought I jerked the microphone out of the interviewer’s hand. The look on his face was priceless; I’d have to remember to laugh at that later when I wasn’t so angry. With one quick, sharp breath I asked Zach a question.
“So you think you’re better than me?” I looked in the direction of the camera man; the red light was still on so this would all be on ESPN later. I knew I would regret this, I just didn’t think I would this quick. Zachery had a smirk on his face, and if he wasn’t trash talking me on TV I would probably think he was cute. He looked up and stared directly into my eyes.
“I won’t deny the fact that you have talent, but come on you’re a girl no one can take you seriously out there.”
“Watch yourself Gona!”
“Don’t piss me off; you don’t want to know how mad I can get.”
“You’re the one trash talking,” by this point I had dropped the microphone and had gotten in his face a little more. He apparently didn’t like my approach. He probably didn’t think I could hold my ground.
“You just be careful tomorrow little girl, the first chance I get I will take you down!” The anger on his face was boiling over, but he didn’t scare me. I’ve dealt with jerk players like him before.
“You’re going to have to catch me first,” I smiled and walked away. I hadn’t noticed we acquired an audience. All the members of the Chief’s team were staring and ready to bounce into action if a fight were to occur, coach Jackson looked angry but he didn’t fool me I knew he was laughing on the inside, my team just looked on and observed, they were used to this, Gabriel watched closely with a smirk on his face, and every single camera in the building was on me. I would definitely hear about this from the family. Chandler was always telling me that the media can be a player’s worst nightmare.
However, the he mood on the bus was still cheery, and happy, and without a word from anyone we were on our way to the hotel we would be staying at. The Hilton was gorgeous! It was everything everyone made it out to be. The white, stone pillars were very welcoming and as I walked in with my millions of bags I couldn’t help but stare at the shiny, clear chandeliers hanging from the marble ceiling. In the distance coach was assigning roommates, and since I was the only girl I would have a room all to myself. It was the best part about traveling with the team, no matter how crazy the day I could always look forward to a quiet night alone to think about things. The Hilton was booked solid for this big event so my family as well as other player’s family got stuck in a hotel a few miles away, so tonight I would truly be alone with my thoughts. I haven’t decided if that is a good thing yet. The elevator dinged when we finally made it to the eighth floor and I struggled all the way to my room, the lock clicked open and my jaw dropped when I saw my room. The big, king sized bed was calling my name, and I wouldn’t mind watching some TV on the giant flat screen that hung from the wall. Unfortunately I only had an hour before I had to meet the team for dinner and a small meeting. Team dinner was in the hotel’s restaurant and we took up about five big tables put together. The JV team was stuffing their faces with everything from the dessert buffet, and they wonder why they never make the play offs maybe it’s because they eat like that. Dallas’ plate did look delicious I had to admit; there was three different kinds of cheese cake and ice cream with my favorite colored sprinkles on top. I glanced back to my boring plate of salad and my small piece of chicken. I debated getting a tiny ice cream cone, but I heard Chandlers voice in my head telling me not to.
“Everyone go relax you’re in your own rooms by ten and lights out at eleven.” There were a few chuckles from the team; I know most of the guys don’t like being treated like kids. I, on the other hand was excited to get this much needed rest. It was a long day, and it would be an even longer one tomorrow. I knew Zachery would be after me, there was no denying that he was a good player. The first chance he would get he would tackle me he even said so himself. The boys went straight to the pool after dinner, and I went to my room to call Chandler back. He answered after the first ring, and he sounded anxious. He wasn’t in his right state of mind, and I could tell. His voice was raspy and sharp.
“Turn the local news on now!” I did as he asked and his end of the line fell silent. The words Kelli Shane’s last game flashed in red on the screen as well as the footage from this afternoons fight. “Kelli?”
“Yeah I’m still here.”
“Don’t let it bother you, just focus on tomorrow’s game. You have to take your career one step at a time.” So many thoughts were running through my head, they were all buzzing around like a swarm of angry wasps.
“I know I need some rest I’ll see you at the game.” Why did the entire world think this was my last game? Did they not see the potential I had? Maybe I really wasn’t that good and all my confidence came from my small down. That had to be it; I was only a big fish in a small pond. These thoughts followed me around all night long until it was finally eleven and I could turn out the lights and hope my brain would shut off so I could sleep. As I drifted off to sleep I heard a tap at my door. I tried to ignore it and fall back asleep, but then I heard it again. The blankets were thrown to the floor and an unhappy me answered the door.
“Kelli… nice pjs,” Gabriel and Austin looked me up and down and started laughing and blushing. I too looked down only to realize I had on my silky pj shorts with small hello kitty logos on them. My face was red as a tomato, but I soon gained composure since they were the ones knocking on my door past curfew.
“What do you guys want?”
“Get dressed and meet us out side in that grassy area in ten minutes.”
“No, I’m tired and we all need sleep.”
“Don’t be a baby just do it.” I contemplated the pros and cons. I knew I wouldn’t be getting much sleep anyway so what could it hurt?
“Fine, I’ll see you in ten.” I shut the door on Gabriel and Austin and grabbed my Dickens Texas shorts and T- shirt. The hall was much longer than I remembered, and coach’s room was only two doors down. I had to be quiet; we couldn’t get caught because the punishment would be brutal. Right as I tip toed past coach’s room I saw his light flicker on. “Crap, I’m dead,” was all I could think. The noise coming from his room was getting louder and louder, the door was slowing creaking open and within two seconds I was hiding behind a very tall plant. He scanned the hallway, sighed, and went back into his room. I hurried down the stairs and out to the back where the grass was. I instantly regretted not bringing a sweatshirt with me. The cool Texas breeze was like ice on my skin and it sent goose bumps and shivers up my entire body. Gabriel and Austin were playing around with the football and waved me over.
“Looks like the Princess came out of her palace after all,” Austin said.
“Very funny, now what exactly are we doing out here?”
“Just thought maybe you’d want to blow off some steam, we all saw your interview.”
“Yeah that was a disaster.”
“Go long princess,” Gabriel shouted as my instincts kicked in and I ran. The wind was flowing through my hair and I struggled to see the football since it was late and dark. My momentum picked up and the ball landed right into my arms. It felt amazing, this was the feeling I had loved so much. This was my favorite part of football. Gabriel and Austin were quietly cheering in the distance, and I ran back to them. “Isn’t it crazy to think that tomorrow is our last game together?”
“It’s pretty weird to think about, next year you’ll be at Ole Miss ,and you’ll be at Alabama, and I’ll be taking orders for McDonalds.”
“Hey now, you’re much better than that. You could easily be taking orders at Applebee’s.” Both Gabriel and I gave Austin a little shove and he fell onto his back. It seemed like a good idea so we joined him. We looked up to see that the stars were shining so bright and the moon was full.
“Kel, I wouldn’t worry about it.” We stayed silent for another twenty minutes.
“Sorry boys but I’m tired and have a state championship game to win tomorrow.” I got up to leave but Austin’s voice made me turn around.
“Hands in!” I smiled because I knew exactly what he meant. We all put our hands in and looked at each other so intently.
“Seniors!” We all quietly shouted together and right then I knew that this would be one of the last times we could do this together. This was our ritual, we had been shouting out our year together since we were ten, and now it was all coming to an end. Austin jogged ahead of us and took a back door into the hotel. Gabriel and I were walking at a slower pace, and I couldn’t help but feel some tension.
“Kelli, I need to get something off of my chest before the game tomorrow.”
“Okay shoot.” Gabriel came closer and soon we were facing each other, I never noticed how gorgeous his brown eyes were. He started leaning in and I surprised myself by matching his motion, his breath was warm on mine and I could smell the deep freeze gum he was chewing a while ago. Then out of nowhere he kissed me, I stood in shock for a second then kissed back. It all felt so right. It felt like fireworks were being set off and a swarm of butterflies were nesting in my stomach. He pulled away too soon for my liking and looked me straight in my eyes.
“I love you Kelli Shane, I always have and I always will.” I was unable to say anything because my mind was trying to process everything and it couldn’t. “We’ve been best friends for a long time; we’ve practically grown up together.” This was so unusual for me, I was the football girl no guys were ever going after me. “I love the way you put 110% into every practice, I love the way you could pretty much kick any guys butt, I love the way that you have your girly side, and I love the way I feel around you.” I had always had certain feelings for Gabriel but I always pushed him aside. He was my QB and I was the receiver that was all, or so I thought. Here we were under the moon light and the stars preparing for the biggest game of our lives and he has to bring this on, like I didn’t have enough to think about already. I wanted to be mad at him, I wanted to yell, but instead I leaned back in and kissed him again.
“We should get to bed.”
“Yeah you’re right; we have a game to win tomorrow.” That’s the last thing we said to each other all night. I rested in bed and tried to think everything through. Eventually my thoughts gave out and I fell into a deep sleep.
There’s always going to be another mountain, I’m always going to want to make it move those words woke me out of my deep sleep and reminded me that it was game day! I was pumped and ready! I quickly threw on some jeans and my Dickson bears sweatshirt. I, once again, was feeling girly so I added some simple make up and a cute side braid. I secured the last piece of hair with a bobby pin and tied a blue and gold ribbon in it. I couldn’t resist the sparkles so I sprinkled a few of those onto my eye lids. I took one last look in the mirror and ran to get the door when I heard a knock.
“Delivery for Kelli Shane.”
“That’s me, thanks!”
“No problem and good luck today.” I took the gorgeous bouquet of flowers and set them down on the table. I looked for the note and it read: to our little football star we love you and we’re so proud. Love mom, dad, and Chandler. This put me in an even happier mood, until Gabriel appeared in my doorway. I instantly remembered everything that went down last night and couldn’t help but blush a little.
“I just came to see if you needed help with your bags, and to give you this.” I took the single red rose from his hand and invited him in. He took one look at the flowers from my family and frowned.
“If you must know I like roses better,” I said with a wink. His face instantly lightened up. He came closer to me which should have made me uncomfortable, but it didn’t.
“You look beautiful.” Before I could reply he gave me a quick kiss.
“We can’t be doing that in front of the team okay? They can’t know.”
“Does this mean we’re together?”
“I’m not sure you tell me you are the guy, and I don’t recall being asked out.” I knew he would catch on to my joking attitude. He took the red rose back into his hand and got down on one knee.
“Kelli would you be my girlfriend?” I couldn’t help but laugh at how cute and innocent he looked.
“Just get me the ball today Orton.” I turned around, grabbed one bag, and made my way toward the door.
“Is that a yes?” He yelled after me.
“We’ll see after the game now won’t we?” He grabbed the rest of my bags and flowers and threw them into the bus downstairs that was waiting to take us to the arena. I quickly downed a protein shake and sat next to Austin.
“Couldn’t resist the sparkles now could you?”
“Nope!” I could feel the adrenaline in the bus the entire way to the stadium. We were all so excited, especially me. There was no way to describe the feeling of game day. The stadium parking lot was already busy, which was surprising since the game didn’t start for four more hours. The bus pulled around to the back and let us out. My heart was pumping as we all walked together into the back locker room. Cameras were shoved in my face again and I knew better this time to not give them my time of day. I caught a few words that were being said to Gabriel. He truly was a super star and I was so excited to see him play at Ole Miss this next season. In a way I felt like he was carrying on my family tradition. Ole Miss had already turned me down, and the only reason they could give was because I was a girl. It was disappointing, but I kind of saw it coming. As we all walked into the locker room our faces fell; someone had vandalized it. It wasn’t a big, huge deal nothing was broken but everyone’s gear was thrown out of the lockers onto the floor. Something pink caught my eye, it was my locker. My heart fell and my eyes wouldn’t believe what was in front of me. “The stadium is no place for a girl” banner was hung on my locker, there were pink ribbons hanging from the handle, and a box of tampons had been dumped all over the inside. The boys came up behind me and witnessed my nervous breakdown. I’ve always been picked aside for being a girl but never like this; it was a new low. Small tears began to escape my eyes, but that was soon replaced with pure hatred and anger. I was now ready to go out there and kick the Chief’s butt. I walked over to the bathroom portion of the locker room and cleaned up my face. I felt Coach Jackson’s presence behind me.
“I’ve seen you get a lot of hate over the past years and I know how hard it must be. Don’t let this get you down; you are one of the best players I’ve ever coached. Go out there and channel your anger, put it in the right direction and win this game. Not for the Bears, not for the state of Texas, not for the recruiters, not for your family, hell not even for me, win this game for you. Show them that you are a girl, and a tough one.”
“The boys are cleaning up your locker; Gabriel seemed pretty worried about you.” Coach Jackson walked back into the locker room and I rushed after him.
“Hey boys thanks for cleaning it up, but save those tampons they just saved me $5!” They all laughed and my small joke lightened the mood for everyone. Gabriel came over and hugged me and asked if I was okay. This was just another obstacle, I had jumped over them before and I could do it again. I brushed everything off and coach gathered the team for another one of his pep talks. He told us to blow off all of the recruiters on the line, which I was planning on doing anyway since none of them have even remotely showed interest in me. Coach also talked to us about getting into fights on the field and he stared directly at me the entire time. I rolled my eyes and continued to listen to our new game plan. After two hours of that we had some free time, so I played on my iPhone until my dad and Chandler walked in. They were both wearing their “We love Kelli” shirts with go #10 on the back. I hated the way my team looked at both of them. I was waiting for the day they all bowed down when they walked in. The team rules were no family in the locker room except my family which I thought wasn’t fair. Dad and Chandler were busy talking to coach which was great I hoped that’s all they were here for. The room was filled with the boy’s different conversations and it was too loud and chaotic; I couldn’t quite pick out what dad was saying. Soon Chandler made his way over to me and I hoped it wasn’t to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do again.
“Hey sis coach just told us about what those Chiefs did to your locker.”
“Yeah it’s no big deal, what were you guys telling Coach Jackson?”
“Um, it’s nothing.” I knew him better than this it was not nothing he was definitely keeping something from me.
“Tell me before I get really angry.”
“The NFL sent a few recruiters to watch the game, but don’t let that distract you.”
“Why would it? I’m a girl remember?” I said this in a joking manner and he caught on.
“That’s my girl.”
“I think I’ve finally come to be okay with the fact that most places won’t take a risk because I’m a girl. I know I’m good and I know I work harder than most boys out there. This won’t be my last game, because I’ll continue to play until the day I die; whether it’s professional ball or a pickup game in the back yard”
“Took you long enough,” he winked, gave me a quick hug and ran off with dad back to their seats. I took a glance at the clock and it was T-minus sixty minutes until game time. I put all my gear and pads on, readjusted my braid so the guys couldn’t pull on it when they attempted to tackle me. I left the ribbon in because I like to remind people that I am a girl even though mom says it’s just so obvious by the way I walk, stand, and act on the field. We huddle up one last time together in the locker room for a chant and then we ran off to the field to warm up. Every seat in the stadium was filled! What looked like a huge field last night became very small as players from both teams spread out to stretch. The offense ran a few plays and before we knew it the clock was down to zero. Coach called everyone into a huddle except me, Gabriel, and Austin. We made our way to the center of the field to meet the refs and captains from the other team. Lucky for me Zach was one of them. As we stood face to face he stared deep into my eyes and I returned the same mean look.
“Zach, I think you were confused and it’s okay and everything I understand you can’t tell the left locker room from the right but you left your tampons in my locker. I gave them to your boyfriend.” Gabriel and Austin broke out into a fit of laughter and I could tell the refs were having a hard time not smiling. Zach on the other hand was bright red and steam looked like it could come out of his ears.
“Bears your call.” Gabriel looked at me and gave me the go ahead to call it.
“Heads it is, do you guys want the ball first?”
“You know it!”
“Nice call Shane,” Gabriel winked at me and we made our way back to our teams huddle. The National Anthem was by far my favorite part of the ceremony it was so emotional and I couldn’t help but tear up a little bit. Today I was a little distracted during the singing; I noticed all of the recruiters on the line. They were intimidating looking; they had their clip boards hugged tight to their chest like it was their life line when in reality it was ours. You could tell which ones were the NFL recruiters they were taller, older, and meaner looking. I also noticed my family was in the front row, I’d have to remember not to look that way during the game it would throw me off. The singing stopped and everyone clapped. This was it, this was our last shot. As special teams went on the field I felt my adrenaline pump up, I felt so energized and I was very confident we would win this one.
The first quarter was tough; we underestimated the Chiefs defense to say the least. I still hadn’t been tackled, but we weren’t getting the ball very far. The score stood fourteen to ten with them on top. Coach pulled me out of the first quarter early only to inform me I would be the shining go to star of the second quarter. I was given instructions to cut whichever way I needed. My spirits were lifted as the second quarter started.
“Get me the ball Gabriel,” I winked as he got ready to call the play.
“Blue 82, blue 82.” I knew this play like the back of my hand and I knew what I had to do to make it successful. Once he hiked the ball I ran as fast as I could dodging chiefs left and right. As I got to their twenty yard line I turned around and caught the perfectly thrown ball, it was all clean and clear to the end zone.
“Touchdown by #10 Kelli Shane,” hearing that on the loud speaker always made me smile. Soon it was half time and we were leading twenty-one to fourteen. We all brought it back to the locker room, and for once we were all in an amazing mood, but we all knew this game was far from over.
“Bring it in ya’ll, you’ve had a great first half and we need to have a great second half. I believe in you guys and I believe you can do this. Now let’s get back out there and bring home another big win!”
The game flew by and before I knew it we were at the two minute warning. The crowd was cheering like crazy and I could pick out my families voice or at least I can picture them yelling and then my mind would play it over. I took a quick glance at the score board, (something I never do) we were tied twenty-eight to twenty-eight. We had the ball, but it was on our own thirty yard line. Our offense had to get it into field goal range if we wanted a chance at winning. A few plays later it was fourth and ten. We were ten yards away from being in field goal range and I was boiling over with anger. This would not be the end for me and my team we’ve worked way too hard to throw it all away right now. Coach called out a play to Gabriel and this one was tough. Gabriel and I have only completed this pass once. We lined up and I noticed my hands were shaking. I heard Chandlers voice in my head telling me to relax and play catch. That was always his great advice, just play catch. Forget the fans, the score, and the other team.
“I’m coming for you.” I lifted my head up only to see Zach was the one guarding me on this play. The ball was hiked and I ran the ten yards like I was supposed to, I turned to get the ball but noticed Gabriel was having trouble shaking of the strong blitz that was coming his way. His eyes caught mine and he threw a spiral. This one was going to be a rocket it was coming at me so fast and I tried to focus harder on it, as soon as I went to catch it I felt myself getting thrown to the ground. Pain rushed through every inch of my body and I screamed like I’ve never screamed before. I tried to get up slowly only to see one ref call an incomplete pass. What was he thinking? I could barely walk and I felt two strong arms help me off the field which belonged to Gabriel. Coach threw the red flag to challenge the call.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m fine coach thanks.” I stretched out a little bit and readjusted my helmet. It all came down to this. If the officials didn’t recognize that was pass interference the game goes into overtime which gives the Chiefs a pretty good shot at winning. If the officials decided to be smart we were still in this game. The Chiefs would get penalized and that would set us in field goal range.
“After official review we have concluded that there was pass interference on #10, the penalty will be ten yards, first down for the Bears.” We all screamed and shouted and turned to coach. It was his big decision time, he could throw Tymes in to attempt a field goal or we could squeeze in one last play before the clock ran out. I had nothing against Tymes but he wasn’t the most accurate kicker. One game he had to kick a twenty-five yard field goal which I could even do in my sleep, heck I’m sure my dad could still pull that one off, and he missed! He didn’t just miss by a little bit; he wasn’t anywhere close to the goal post. You could see the anxiety on all of our faces; Tymes was the worst out of all of us. Sweat dripped down his face which I chuckled at considering he hasn’t really seen much playing time this game, and his hands were shaking uncontrollably. After a simple roll of my eyes I focused back on coach waiting for his words of wisdom.
“Gabriel, Kelli are you up for one more pass? It’ll be a long one and you’ll have to run with it pretty far.” Us three exchanged glances and knew that even though this was a risky play it was our best shot at winning this game.
“Let’s win this one coach.” He smiled at my enthusiasm and sent us all out on the field. The crowd fell silent as well as both teams and coaching staff. The stadium was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. My eyes focused in and out on every single defensive player, and that’s when I realized their defense was set up for this play. It’s like their head coach could read our mind, but before I could call out to Gabriel to change the play the ball was already in motion. There would be no do over I thought as I ran further down the field. The ball landed perfectly in my hands and I turned to make a run for it to the end zone. The pressure was tight on me; I broke left then right and dodged a few tackles but there were too many. The options played in my mind over and over, at that moment, the light bulb in my mind went off and I had to get rid of the ball. My eyes as well as my brain scanned the field looking for an open man, but the only one I found was a young sophomore named Mike. He had his eyes fixed on me and they pleaded with me not to throw him the ball. Sorry kid I had no other option, my arm went back and in one quick motion the ball propelled forward out of my hand just like the game. The game was no longer in my hands they were in Mikes. I saw his eyes get wide as the ball came closer to his face. Surprisingly there weren’t many defensive backs on his tail, I closed my eyes and crossed my fingers hoping he would make this one catch. I heard screams all around and opened my eyes back up to find Mike had made it into the end zone. I joined the crowds and my team by jumping in the air in celebration and rushing toward the sidelines only to throw my helmet and to run out to the middle of the field. You could feel the energy radiating off of all of us. The refs came out to present coach the trophy as I was lifted in the air and spun around.
“Well I got you the ball,” Gabriel said smirking at me.
“I guess you did, now get over here QB and kiss me.” The team erupted into cheers at the sight they were seeing. Real mature guys!
“Congrats sis you did it!”
“We are so proud of you.” I had never contemplated the meaning of life it was always football and family and today I had both, my life was definitely complete.
That night the Bears celebrated their final victory together in style.
*One season later*
“Kelli get up, you’re going to be late!”
“Shut up Gabe and let me sleep.”
“Fine but don’t complain to me when you’re late again.”
“You know when you said Ole Miss gave you the bye week off you didn’t mention how much of a pain you’d be.” I felt him kiss me one last time before getting up to make me my pre game protein shake.
“Drink up; I can’t have my girl get tackled out there.”
“You do realize that I’m second string and probably won’t get any playing time for a while right?”
“Why do you constantly have to rub it in my face that you’re better than me?” We both broke out into a fit of laughter because honestly if you were to tell me I’d even be playing football this year I would have laughed in your face.
Gabriel drove me into the back end of the stadium and proceeded to the stands to sit with my family. Glitter was my new good luck charm so I sprinkled the right amount on my eyes.
“Game time; get out there!” I did as coach asked until he pulled me to the side,”Kel, I need you to play this game Whitmore is out with a bad injury and you’re the only one who can get the job done.”
“That’s wonderful but why am I just hearing about this?”
“I figured you worked better under pressure,” he shrugged and took off to the field. I had been on the bench most of the season and figured I’d never get any playing time, but now I was overwhelmed. I was sweating and my right hand began to twitch like it did when I was super nervous. The team stared at me as I walked into our pre game huddle in the tunnel.
“Hey Kelli congrats, kick some butt out there!” I couldn’t help but smile when our QB said this; it was great to be recognized. One by one the first string players names were called and one by one they ran through the tunnel of cheerleaders onto the field.
“And introducing the New Orleans Saints starting wide receiver #10 Kelli Shane.”