The audience was already fired up when I arrived. I glanced at my cell phone and saw that I was a little late for the team warm up. I walk, instead of running, to my team, Big Red, so as to give me a chance to get a feel for my surroundings. I look at the crowd and estimate that there must be thousands of people here screaming and hollering for today’s finalist. There’s probably millions more watching on their TVs. Taking a deep breath, I join my team and they stop just long enough to give me a smile to show they saw me. I can tell by their eyes that they are as nervous as I am. In most eyes I saw anticipation as well. The prize for the winner of today’s game is $100,000 to be split amongst the team and a chance to train with the USA soccer team. My body and mind was itching to get started but I knew I had to get it under control or I will get overwhelmed and make mistakes. Taking another deep breath, I glance in my families direction and they give me a thumbs up. I then glance at the side lines where my two good friends, Blair and Mary Nell, smile at me. I look back at coach and he calls us all together to make sure we know what are positions are. As always I’m center midfield with Sarah on my right and Jessica on my left. All of Big Red glances at our opponent, the Green Snakes, and notice that they are not even on the field yet and it’s just moment away from the game. My coach motions a ref to us and he explains that the Green Snakes had some big entrance planned. The center Ref blew his whistle to announce the beginning of the game and Big Red rushes onto the field and waited. We didn’t have to wait long. In moments fireworks were going off and the Green Snakes marched onto the field in two lines. The lines crossed each other and surrounded Big Red. They started hissing at us like snakes before retreating, half going to the benches and half taking up positions on the field. Big Red was expecting this so when they surrounded us we formed into a tight triangle with me at the point. When I was sure I had everyone’s attention, I yawned and stretched to look as bored as possible, as did my team. I could tell we were pretty convincing from the fist that kept clenching and unclenching from the other team. As one, my team ran at their center positions and they split as though we were scissors and they were paper. Our team’s song, Head Strong, starting playing when my team split behind me. They jogged back to positions while I continued running forward. I pushed on, aiming for the ball placed in front of the Green Snake’s defenders, placed there when everyone was focused on the Green Snake’s show and not the Big Red players on the bench. The Green Snake defenders rushed the ball but I was faster. I tapped the ball between one player’s legs and circles around her. I suddenly tapped the ball to the left so as to cause another player that was charging at me to run past me, momentum carrying her farther then she meant to go. The last defender was clearly more cautious and didn’t charge me, she waited for me to make the move. No amount of caution could have prepared the girl for my sudden power kick that sent the ball flying over her head and into the right corner of the goal in a beautiful downward arch. The whole crowd cheered loudly for my beautiful goal. The satisfying swish of the net as the ball slammed into it made me fill with such pride I could have leaped high into the air just for the fun of it. I jogged back to my face, filled with the powerful emotion, and a smirk on my face. Big Red celebrated our small victory very quickly for the game was about to begin. When the Ref blew his whistle, Big Red took advantage of the fact that we had the suns to our backs and the ball to start out with by sending the ball flying up in the air where the opposing players couldn’t see. Even with the advantage, my team had some difficulty finding an opening in the opposing players defense. Our center forward finally found one and sent the ball flying towards the goal as hard as she could, sadly the goalie was good and pushed the ball back. Unluckily for the Green Snakes, a player of theirs had been running back to help and accidentally kneed the ball into the goal for us. While that player held her head in shame, my team rushed back into positions, yelling congratulations to each other. For the rest of the half, neither team scored and the ball was mostly kept on our side. Some nice plays were made but neither team could get the ball past the opposing defenders. Both teams were worn out by the time the Ref blew his whistle for half time. As the team captain, it was my job to keep up the team’s moral while coach checked for injuries. My team had the tendency to play even with a seriously bad injury. “Listen up guys,” I called for their attention. When everyone was looking at me I continued, “We are doing great. The score is 1-0 because of a crap shot so don’t go celebrating yet. Green is good, they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t, but we are better. Got it?” “Yeah,” the teamed responded together. “Remind me because I can’t seem to remember. What do we do when we win?” “Party!” “And when we lose?” “Party harder!” “Who are we?” “Big Red!” “Who?” “BIG RED!!!” With that, Big Red raced onto the field, half time was over. Big Red started leaping into the air, whopping with joy and adrenalin coursing through their veins for the second time today. I smiled at each player, honestly proud of each and everyone of them. They smiled back. The Green Snakes walked to their positions, looking very serious. Sadly, Big Red could not get their goofy smiled under control no matter how hard they tried. “You haven’t won yet,” shouted the Green Snake team captain. “We’ll beat you before the game is over. Just you wait.” “They don’t care,” I responded, speaking for my team. “Their moral is high as in their adrenalin. All they care about is playing.” At that, my team nodded assessment, their smiles growing. When the Ref blew the whistle, Green took the ball forward but their frustration got the better of them and they pushed the ball to far in front of them. I rushed in passed the ball to our center forward who then took it forward. After a couple of yards she passed it to our right forward who kicked the ball just right and sent it flying into the far corner of the goal. The ball went in beautifully. The whole team whooped and cheered along side the crowd as they ran back to their starting positions. As I turned to go back I ran into another player. Muttering an apology, I backed up and intended to run around her but she slammed her hands onto my chest and sent me flying backwards. I landed hard on my back and the air was forced out of me. Before I could recover, two more Green Snake players joined the first and held down my arms. I struggled, a little fearful at this point. My heart quickened as the original player picked up her foot and held it suspended above me. I screamed off the top of my lungs when she slammed her foot onto my knee, snapping it, and kept it there. The crowd went nuts, some fighting to get a piece, others fighting to help. I started to black out when the wait on my arms and knee vanished. I looked up in time to see Mary Nell crashing into the main attacker and the other two jumped back in surprise. Blair was at my side in an instant and we both looked up to see the main attacker swing with all her strength at Mary Nell. I heard her ribs crack and she fell to one knee. I looked at the attacker and could tell by the look in her eye that she would attack again. Seeing that brought on an overwhelming sense of protectiveness. The feeling lent me strength to where I was able to get up and leap over Mary Nell. My hands landed squarely on my target’s shoulders but sent me sprawling on my side, grabbing at my hurt leg. My target stumbled backwards but regained her balance and leaped on me before I could recover. She pounded on my chest and broke a rib or two. Using the last of my strength, I heaved her off of me and her head slammed into to a pole, she out cold in seconds. By this point, the stadium security had gotten the audience under control and was rushing over to help. The paramedics reached my side but my face was already blue from lack of oxygen. They were still trying to get me to breathe and respond when I blacked out.
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