Fantasy Football Part 15

Plex kept shaking his head, trying to clear the cobwebs. His mind remained clouded. It felt as if he had drank an entire barrel of ale. The drunken feeling wasn’t the worst of it, though. It also felt like he was suffering the hangover of such a drinking binge. He had felt both of those things separately, but this was the first time he had ever felt them both together.

Was he the first person to ever feel them both at the same time? It seemed like those two things would be impossible to feel at the same time. After all, drunkenness and hungover would not happen to one person all at once. Those two particular feelings generally didn’t happen to one person on the same day, let alone at the same time.

A wave of warmth washed over him as he wondered why those strange thoughts were bouncing around in his mind. Plex’s vision cleared. In front of him was the team healer. Or, at least, he assumed it was. While he could see better than he had been able to, he still was fuzzy. On top of that, there was still something that dominated his vision.
No matter the fuzziness, no matter the pain in his head, the only thing he saw were the eyes of Lavalandinarial.

The dragon’s eyes burned through him like the fiery breath of the great beast would. Plex shivered. He wanted nothing to do with Lavalandinarial, but he suspected that his condition was the dragon’s doing. He wasn’t sure how the dragon could have done it. Plex wasn’t that knowledgeable about magic and assumed that was likely what he had been hit with. There was no way he fell like that on his own.

Another wave of warmth flowed over him. His vision cleared a little more, but he was struck by a powerful lightheadedness. Plex felt himself falling backwards. Strong hands caught him and gently placed him on the ground. He found himself looking straight up in the air. Still, he saw nothing besides Lavalandinarial’s eyes. Suddenly, the rest of the dragon’s face appeared before him. Her mouth curled into a sneer just before all of the bad feelings left his head as if they were never there.

Plex opened his eyes and was greeted by the worried face of Coach Sprout. “What just happened?”

“I don’t know, Coach,” he answered honestly. “Everything went crazy there for a moment.”

Coach Sprout’s eyes flicked to the dragon before returning to Plex. “Are you okay now?”

“I think so.”

“Good. We’re going to need you.”

Plex looked up at the scoreboard and saw that it hadn’t changed. It still said that his team was winning thirty-five to thirty-three. He remembered a touchdown being scored. He heard the crowd cheering afterward. Had that just been in his head? And how did the other team get the ball?

Coach Sprout, seeing the confused look on his face, explained. “Your backup threw an interception.”

Gilania’s team had the ball at midfield and was steadily moving it. Kalant was on the field, harassing the quarterback and making sure they didn’t have time to pick out receivers far down field but they were picking up enough yards everything three downs to get the first and continue to move the chains. Plex was glad to see that the dwarf had found a role he could thrive in. However, on their current drive, Plex didn’t see how they were stoppable. Soon enough they would have another six points on the board and gain the lead.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to steady his mind and calm his nerves. Though everything seemed to be back to normal he couldn’t shake the feeling that something had been very wrong just moments before. He had not been in control of his mind or body and that was deeply unsettling.

When he opened his eyes again he tried to see the field anew. He studied the way the offense was setting up to try and find a weakness that could be exploited. While he watched, Gilania’s team moved the ball another twenty yards with a series of small gain, quickly churned, running plays. They were in field goal range now so now was the time to stop them, at least, or get a turnover if they could.

“It would be risky,” Plex suddenly said, catching Coach Sprout by surprise.

“What?” The gnome looked up nervously. His gaze only strayed for a moment before returning to the field.

“We could set up like we think they are going to pass, they will likely try to run the ball instead, and then we have our whole line rush in to either clog the running lanes or sack the quarterback. If we are lucky, we can get a fumble and recover it.”

“If we aren’t lucky, the quarterback will get a pass off downfield to any of the wide open receivers and they’ll get a touchdown.”

“If we don’t try something off script, they are going to get a touchdown anyway.”

Coach Sprout glanced up to Plex again but this time held the elf’s gaze. “Worth the risk,” he said and then went to confer with one of his assistant coaches.

Plex didn’t bother trying to eavesdrop. Whatever they did to draw up the play, they would have to get it out to the team quickly to disrupt the current run. Gilania’s team was still advancing down the field and all the while the time clock was running lower and lower. From what Plex could remember, this was the longest position either team had managed all game.

At the next available down, a second down after having picked up three yards on the first play, a likely enough situation for a pass, the defensive line shuffled out and extra back field players came on. This was it. Coach Sprout was using his idea now.

The offense saw the change and to Plex it sounded like they were calling for a change to the play they were going to run. He hoped that meant they were going to try to run the ball only and hadn’t suspected the attack they were about to receive.

One of the new defenders bent down and whispered something in Kalant’s ear. Whatever was said made the dwarf go red. Plex could tell the dwarf was angry at what he was told. He wondered what it could be. Kalant was still in the game, so it couldn’t be that he was angry at being taken out.

There was no further time to ponder it as the opposing quarterback had shuffled his players into the formation that he wanted and was set to receive the snap. After barking out his cadence, the ball came into his hand. He turned to hand the ball off to his running back, but he couldn’t. The running back had already been hit by the new defender that had spoken to Kalant.

The quarterback twisted away from them and was immediately face to face with another defender. To his credit, the quarterback maintained his composure and sidestepped the tackle attempt. It only bought him a moment of freedom as he was about to get hit by another blitzer. Plex watched in surprise as the quarterback threw the ball just as he was hit hard by one of Plex’s teammates.

As soon as the ball left the quarterback’s hand, Plex wondered who it was going to. None of the receivers had run routes. They had started blocking as soon as the ball was hiked. Plus, it was in the middle of the field, and the receivers were on the outside. Then, it hit him and he wanted to smack himself for missing something so obvious.

The ball was going to the tight end.

Lined up next to the offensive line, the tight end had also been blocking, but he was still able to catch a pass. Except for the cornerbacks, who were lined up outside with the receivers, it looked like the rest of his team’s defense had run past the tight end. If they caught it, the play would result in a touchdown. Plex cursed, knowing his plan might have just cost his team the game.

The ball floated in the air for a second before falling back down to the ground. Something was coming streaking in from the secondary at the tight end. It was Kalant. He had dropped into coverage instead of rushing the quarterback. Plex chuckled as he finally understood why the dwarf had been angry before the play started. Kalant hated dropping back into coverage.

Both Kalant and the ball arrived at the exact same time. The tight end, an ogre, was a foot taller than the dwarf and probably outweighed him by quite a bit, but Kalant was almost nothing but muscle and was moving at full speed. Kalant lowered his shoulder and drove it directly into the small of the ogre’s back. The hit knocked the tight end forward and the ball jumped up off of his fingers.

The entire arena watched as the ball fell down in slow motion. It was in the middle of one of the offensive linemen and a blitzing defender that had turned around in time to see the hit. Both of them had a chance for it. They lunged for the ball as Plex tried to will his player into catching it.

Fantasy Football Part 14

Part 14 of the blog hopping story written by Matticus and myself is up on his site. Please head on over and check it out. And while you’re there, make sure to check out his other stuff too!

The Matticus Kingdom

The time has come once again for Fantasy Football!  Like, legit fantasy football, with elves and dwarves and a particularly nasty dragon, all courtesy of the imagination of Revis and myself.  Not sure what I’m talking about?  Part 1 is here.

Let’s see, some quick math, at around 1,500 words per post and 14 posts (so far), that’s just shy of 20,000 fantastically footbally words already!  That’s a lot.  And we aren’t done yet.  Dive on in to the next installment.  And the leave us a note to let us know what you think should happen next.

……

Plex had missed the play, his attention fully on watching the fate of Foyarlen instead, but not wanting to see Lavandinarial lick her lips he forced himself to focus on the game again.  The opposing team, somewhat surprising, set up for a point after kick rather than go for two points. …

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Fantasy Football 13

It’s that time again. It’s time for the next installment of the blog hopping story by Matticus and I. We hope that you’re enjoying the ride so far. If you need to catch up, the rest of the parts can be found here.

***** ***** *****

Coach Sprout called for the offense to gather around him. They were going for a two point conversion. The score was currently thirty-three to twenty-six in favor of Plex’s team. That was a seven point difference. If they kicked the extra point, and made it an eight point difference, that would still allow the opposing team to tie the game with one touchdown, provided the other team scored a two point conversion afterward. If Plex’s team scored on their own two pointer right now, they would force Gilania’s team to score twice in order to take the lead.

Plex’s emotions were still mixed. He wanted to win the game. His survival was dependent upon winning the game. Yet, winning the game meant possibly dooming his sister to death. He wanted to keep the score close in order to make certain that he remained safe, but winning had to be his highest priority. He had to get his team the two points right now and hope that Gilania’s team added to their score before the game was over.

He looked over at the bench and saw that Glavven was still being worked on by the healer. There was no way the minotaur would be able to go in for this play. The two point conversion would rest squarely on his shoulders.

Sprout told them the play he wanted them to run and Plex led them out to the field. He got his players lined up the way they should be. Plex surveyed the defense and had a pretty good idea of what they were going to do. The quarterback called out the snap count as he stood in the shotgun formation. His hands wrapped around the ball after it hit his hands. Two steps back and Plex looked to his right at his elven receiver.
He wanted to give his receiver a chance to redeem himself after falling down on the interception. The confidence that would build up in the elf would serve them well in any future games. Unfortunately, Foyarlen, the elven receiver was being defended well. Plex wasn’t going to force the ball in there just to make Foyarlen feel better.

He had to step to his left to avoid a pass rusher. Another was coming from behind him, but he felt that more than saw it. Plex took two steps forward, keeping his eyes upfield at his other receivers. Baclem, the troll, was covered as well. Traag, his ogre tight end, managed to get a step on his defender on a crossing route. Plex threw it just before a large defensive lineman hit his back.

His eyes stayed on target as he fell to the ground. The ball was on target, though he led the ogre a little bit more than he would have liked to ensure that the defensive back couldn’t get his hands on the ball. Traag reached out and the ball hit him right on the hands. It popped up and Plex’s heart jumped into his throat. The ball fell down and the ogre’s hands looked like they were about to wrap around it.

Then, his view was blocked by one of his offensive linemen stepping in front of him. Plex braced for impact just before slamming into the ground. The weight of the tackler forced the air from his lungs but Plex stayed calm and was breathing normally again before he’d jumped up to see how the play turned out. He saw Traag dancing in the end zone, the football waving above the ogre’s head held tightly in one hand.

Plex moved into the end zone and congratulated Traag on the catch before moving off the field so the game could continue. While the teams were setting up for the new kick off, Foyarlen came to stand next to Plex.

“I would have caught it.”

The statement came in elven and Plex, having gotten used to the common tongue that was used among the team, was momentarily confused by it. “What?”

“It didn’t look like I was open, I understand, but if you had led me like you led the ogre, I would have caught it.”

Plex caught glances from the nearest teammates. He assumed they were wondering why the team of them were talking in elven. Plex switched back to common. He didn’t need any other drama with his team. Worrying about his sister, his own skin, the coach, and Kalant was more than enough already.

“Traag got a step on his defender so that was the safer play.”

Foyarlen continued in elven, “Throw it to me next time. I will catch it.”

Plex sighed. “I’ll throw it wherever I think we have the best chance of being successful as a team. You tell me you would have caught it. That’s fine. Next time, get a step on your defender and then we’ll see.”

“You’ll throw it to me.”

It was more statement than question and Plex didn’t feel like continuing the conversation anymore so he ignored his fellow elf. Foyarlen refused to be put off, though. The receiver stepped between Plex and the field, turning his back on the action, on his team, just as the ball was kicked. Plex tried to look around the receiver but Foyarlen moved in his way again.

“You’ll throw it to me.”

There was a hint of desperation in his compatriot’s voice. Plex didn’t like the sound of it. It seemed like Foyarlen had something more, something personal, at stake than advancing to the next round. They were already winning so it wasn’t a need to ensure they weren’t the dragon’s next snack. Plex searched Foyarlen’s eyes for some hint as to what else could be going on but the receiver kept any further emotions hidden.

“Foyarlen. Get over here.”

Coach Sprout pointed at the receiver and then pointed at the patch of ground at the gnome’s feet. Foyarlen said one more time, under his breath, “Throw it to me.” Then the receiver walked over to see what their coach wanted.

On the field, their defense had stopped the return well and the teams were setting up for the first down. Plex glanced toward the giant time glass. Only a minute or so remained in the third quarter. The game was going fast. It was much faster than he was comfortable with. It felt like he had no control over the outcome and all his concerns were slipping beyond his grasp.

That was the way of things under the rule of Lavalandinarial. Everyone was subject to the dragon’s whims. Not much that the dragon did made sense. People had been killed for following Lavalandinarial’s orders because the dragon changed her mind after the fact. Personally, Plex thought there was a method to the madness, that the dragon was purposefully keeping everyone off balance. Just like the dragon pitting the races against one another, there was a reason behind it.

The reason was simple: Lavalandinarial was strengthening her reign.

Chaos and division benefitted the dragon greatly. Lavalandinarial knew that if the people of this world rose up together, there was a chance that they could defeat her. It wasn’t much of a chance, he knew. Lavalandinarial possessed most of the magic out there, on top of being a towering dragon, but there was still a chance. One that Plex was sure that the dragon wasn’t willing to take.

Off to the side, he heard voices raised high enough to be heard over the sounds of the crowd. It was Foyarlen and Coach Sprout. They were having a heated exchange further up the sideline. He didn’t hear the start of the conversation, but he could now.

“You can’t put me on the bench,” Foyarlen hollered. “I have to play.”

“The last time I checked,” Coach Sprout countered, “I was the head coach of this team and it was my decision on who plays and who doesn’t. Not yours.”

In a fit of rage, Foyarlen lunged at the gnome, his hands reaching for the diminutive Sprout’s throat. The coach stepped back to try to avoid it, but elf was just too quick. Plex looked on in shock, not knowing what to do. He was familiar with Foyarlen because of their time on the elven team together. They didn’t really talk about anything outside of football, though. Still, he had always seemed like an even keeled fellow to Plex and Foyarlen’s behavior over the past few minutes contradicted that image. Plex unfroze from his shock and moved to intervene.

His momentary pause might have cost Foyarlen his life.

Before Plex could get to the struggling pair, a dwarven member of Lavalandinarial’s Honor Guard broke into the fight and pulled the elf off Coach Sprout. Foyarlen threw a punch at the dwarf, but he missed high when the dwarf ducked underneath it. Two quick punches, one from each hand, flew from the dwarf. One hit Foyarlen in the gut and the other clipped his chin as he hunched over from the first blow. Foyarlen fell onto his back. The dwarf grabbed him by the hair and dragged him along the sideline until they were in front of the dragon.

With a wicked smile playing across her face, Lavalandinarial reached down casually, plucked Foyarlen up, and dropped the screaming elf into her mouth.

The crowd erupted into cheers, which both confused and angered Plex. He didn’t think it was right to cheer for someone’s death. Then he realized they weren’t cheering for that. They were cheering for the touchdown the opposing team just scored.

Fantasy Football part 12

Another installment of the blog hopping story written by Matticus and myself. It also serves as a cheap way to get in one of my NanoPoblano shares. Hooray for multitasking!

The Matticus Kingdom

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…

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Fantasy Football Part 11

Plex could feel the anger rising up inside him. He couldn’t believe that his coach had just threatened to tattle on him to the dragon, especially since he had no proof that Plex had done anything wrong. Coach Sprout was completely right, he knew, but there was no way to prove that he had botched that play on purpose. All the gnome had was suspicions, and he wasn’t about to let himself go down for them. Despite how his sister had acted, Plex’s priorities were his own welfare, and that of his family.

He wasn’t going to let anyone threaten that. Not his coach, or his teammates. It hurt him, because he had done his best to do everything he could for his team, except for that one play. Still, he found himself looking directly at the gnome with venom in his eyes and dripping from his words.
“Go ahead,” Plex spat. “Go run to the dragon and tell it that you think I am purposefully doing bad. There can’t possibly be another explanation for it. It’s not like a handoff has ever been fumbled between a quarterback and running back before. This is the first time ever. And let’s not forget when I made my receiver trip after throwing the ball, because I have complete control over that.”

Coach Sprout was about to offer a rebuttal, but Plex cut him off. “I know you outrank me, and I shouldn’t be doing this, but I’m going to stop you right there. This is what’s going to happen: I’m going to go out there, run your plays, and I’m going to guide our team to victory. After that, I’m going to go to the dragon myself and ask it to put me on a team where my head coach doesn’t question my integrity.”

Plex turned and walked back to his teammates. He found himself shaking as he did. If Coach Sprout noticed, he hoped the gnome thought it was anger causing him to shake. The truth was that it was his nerves. He’d never done anything like that before. He’d never gone against authority. He’d never tried to turn an argument around on a person when he was the one at fault. It was so out of character for him that he wondered what he was capable of if there was an even bigger threat to himself or his family.

The rest of his teammates had gathered on the sideline and Plex did his best to give them a rousing speech. They all went along with it, cheering as he talked. He saw Coach Sprout off to the side eyeing him intently. Plex finished his speech just as the players were called back onto the field. He gave Glavven a pat on the back and a few words of encouragement as the minotaur ran out to receive the kickoff.

“That was a pretty good show you put on back there,” Sprout said after all the other players left the immediate vicinity, “but I don’t think for one moment that the fumble was accidental. You’re also free to go to the dragon, if you want to, but we both know that Lavalandinarial will probably just eat us both if one of us goes to complain. I’m willing to look past this incident if you are, but, if I think you’re not giving me your all, I’ll still pull you from the game.”

Plex looked down to see the gnome extend his hand and ask, “Deal?”

The elf shook the hand and then turned away from the gnome. He had nothing further to say.

On the field, Glavven had just received the ball around the ten yard line and was making a run for an opening on the far side of the field. He received help from two well-timed blocks and then he straight-armed an orc and was clear, with nothing but open grass ahead of him.

His legs churned and ate up the open field. An elf trailed a few yards back and was gaining on him but it didn’t look like he’d be able to bring down the running back before Glaveen crossed the goal line. And then, on the ten yard line, Glavven tripped.

It looked like his foot had hit a rock because his legs were nowhere near each other. Glavven went soaring forward and landed with a hard thud on the turf near the six yard line. For a moment it looked as if the ball was going to pop free of his hands but the strong minatuar held on tightly. The elf then tapped him on the shoulder as he caught up and passed, still in full sprint, to ensure the runner was down.

A funny feeling, a sort of queasiness, stirred in Plex’s stomach. He glanced towards Lavalandinarial. A small tendril of smoke rose from one of the massive beasts’ nostrils and a hint of a smile twisted its jaws. Was the dragon using its magical powers to interfere with the game?

He didn’t have time to ponder just then. Running onto the field he got the play from Coach Sprout and relayed that to his teammates. Glavven had remained on but wasn’t going to be used for the touchdown attempt. The minataur was still breathing heavily from the long run, anyway. It was probably best to give him a break. Though, they were going to use the runningback as a decoy.
When everyone was in position, Plex called out a short count and then hiked the ball. Glavven was running right behind him. He faked a hand off to the minataur and then continued to spin around and throw the ball out wide the opposite direction as the runner. The wide receiver caught the ball and easily charged in the final couple yards for a touchdown.

Rather than celebrate with the receiver, Plex clapped Glavven on the back as they made their way to the sidelines. The runner had done most of the work to get them in scoring. While Coach Sprout had called for a good play for the touchdown itself, Plex would have done the same thing. It was easy enough to catch the defense off their guard with a throw after using Glavven so many times in a row.

On the sideline again, Plex cheered as the point after attempt was made successfully. He wasn’t sure why the coach hadn’t asked him to go for two but he didn’t want to ask. He’d had enough of the coach for the time being. Instead, his attention was pulled towards the dragon.

The entire game had been played so far with the sound of Lavalandinarial’s breathing in the background. As the game had gone on, the crowd had become more interested in it and had began to cheer loudly at the end of almost every play. Once he realized that, he looked up at the dragon. He had very little experience with dragons, but if their facial expressions matched humanoid facial expressions, Lavalandinarial was happy.

Usually, Plex would take that as a good sign. After all, people had a tendency to die around the dragon when it was unhappy. It was what was making the dragon happy that was giving him pause, though, because it wasn’t what was happening on the field that was lifting the dragon’s spirits. It was the crowd.
In addition to returning the kickoff, the other team had run at least two plays and Lavalandinarial hadn’t turned her gaze to the field once. The entire time, the dragon’s eyes watched the crowd, soaking in their reaction to the game being played. It didn’t make sense. Why would the dragon care more about the reaction to the game than the actual game itself? Or, was his inexperience with the dragon making him misinterpret the entire situation?

Lavalandinarial’s eyes started sweeping his way and Plex turned his head quickly back to the field. He didn’t know if the dragon would have noticed him looking, but it was best to not tempt catching her attention. Plex looked at the position of the other team and saw them on his team’s side of the field. They were just in range of where their kicker, who had recovered after his first disastrous attempt, had made the rest of his kicks. Gilania’s team was still driving the ball, though.

It was third down and they had two yards to go. Plex was surprised to see Kalant run from the sideline to replace someone on his team’s defense. Coach Sprout must think that the other team will call a running play, he thought. That’s the only reason he would put the dwarf in the game. He glanced over at his diminutive coach. “I guess we’ll see if he’s as smart as he thinks he is,” he muttered to himself.

The ball was snapped. The quarterback handed the ball to the running back, confirming Sprout’s theory. Before the back got two steps forward, Kalant had put his shoulder into the side of the ogre’s knee. Despite being taller, and heavier, the running back fell to the ground without even making it back to the line of scrimmage. His team’s defense had stopped them from getting a first down.

A field goal was kicked on the next play, going through the uprights, and turning it back into a one point game at twenty-seven to twenty-six in favor of Plex’s team. As the defense ran off the field, he cheered for them and offered encouragement to those who came close to him. With that done, he watched as his squad set up to receive the oncoming kickoff. Glavven fielded it at the two yard line and ran up the middle of the field. He slipped past one tackler, but it put him in line with the next one, a fellow minotaur.

The other minotaur hit Glavven low, just as Kalant had done to their running back. Unlike Kalant’s tackle, which came in from the side, this tackle came from head-on. The other minotaur’s thick horned skull hit Glavven’s kneecap while his leg was planted. That was followed by a sickening pop and the sight of his running back’s knee bending in a way it was never meant to bend.

Fantasy Football Part 10

Here it is, my friends. It’s Part 10 of the story that I’m writing with the incredibly talented Matticus. Be sure to go check it out.

The Matticus Kingdom

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…

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Fantasy Football Part 9

Here it is, everyone! The moment that you’ve all been waiting for! It’s the next installment of the story that Matticus and I are writing. I hope you’re all enjoying it so far!

Plex felt a little better when he saw his big running back pound it into the end zone. He ran back to the sideline and drank from a bucket by the bench. The crowd erupted when his kicker made the extra point, giving his team a one point lead with a score of seven to six. After congratulating his running back, who made an excellent play, he praised his offensive line who kept the defenders at bay during the run.

As much as he wanted to watch the game while the defense was on the field, Plex focused on talking amongst his offensive teammates and coaches. His attention needed to be on perfecting their gameplan, not worrying about what the defense was doing on the field. Whenever the crowd erupted, he wondered whether they were cheering for a good offensive or defensive play. It didn’t matter, though. His job was to try to score every time he touched the ball.

Then he remembered the dragon’s proclamation.

If he scored on every possession, and the other team didn’t, he’d be sentencing his sister to death. He refused to be responsible for that. He would certainly try to win the game, but he had to keep the score close. The margin of victory, if the game ended now, would be one point. That would be optimal. Plex vowed to keep that the margin for the rest of the game. All he would do from now on was match the other team score for score. It was the best way to ensure Gilania’s safety.

His discussion with his offensive teammates was interrupted when he heard Coach Sprout calling his name. As he made his way over to the coach’s position, he looked up at the board erected to keep track of the score. Gilania’s team now had a two point lead. That meant that they had kicked a field goal. Considering the problems their kicker had already gone through during the game, that was surprising. It also meant that he had to do whatever he could to ensure that his team scored, but only a field goal, on this drive.

The first play that Coach Sprout called was another running play. This time, the defense was able to take the minotaur down after a six yard gain. With the play starting at their own thirty-one yard line, Plex dropped back to pass. Looking to his left, he saw his primary receiver covered. Across the middle, his tight end was similarly covered. His eyes moved to the right, where he saw his other receiver, Baclem the troll, had a step on the defender.

Plex let go of the ball just as a goblin defender hit the back of his knee. There was nothing he could do to stop his fall. He wanted more than anything to see how his pass had worked out, but he couldn’t see as he was falling to the turf. As he hit the ground, the sound of a roaring crowd assaulted his ears. The crowd wouldn’t have reacted like that, he knew, unless it was a touchdown or an interception. He quickly got to his feet to see which one it was.

Baclem was dancing in the end zone. Somehow the troll had gotten past all the defenders to score, putting them up thirteen to nine, with the extra point attempt still left to go.

As the ball sailed through the uprights, giving his team a five point lead, Plex’s heart dropped into his stomach. A quick glance towards the large hourglass, which marked the time left in each of the four quarters of the game, showed the first quarter was nearly over and that did nothing to settle his emotions. While there was still a lot of game to be played, time was not going to be his friend in this test of skills and mental strength.
The only thing he could do was go back to talking with his teammates. He needed to continue to build those relationships. He would need their help if he was going to be successful in keeping the score close. Whether they became aware of what he was doing or not, he would need to understand, understand their movements, understand their likely choices.

While he chatted, his team kicked off and the other team managed to break through the first set of players before being taken down near the fifty yard line. They would be well positioned for a field goal, at least, if they could move the ball forward a little bit. That made Plex happy. That would help eat into the lead. And, if they scored a touchdown, then Plex would do his best to get his own team into field goal range.

The opposing team ran two running plays back to back, advancing for one yard and then six yards, leaving them only three yards short of a first down, before the whistle blew for the end of the first quarter. The teams shuffled around and, after a short pause, while the ball was placed in the right spot, the whistle blew again and the game started back up.

They ran a third running play, which surprised Plex. They only needed three yards but they hadn’t shown much success with the run except for the opening kick-off where they ran back for a touchdown. Their runner was stopped after only a yard gained and Plex was surprised for the second time in quick succession when they didn’t send on their kicking team.
Plex wanted to get back to talking to his teammates but he couldn’t take his eyes off the action. The other team was making a mistake and the hush in the crowd made it seem like even they knew it was a mistake. The ball was snapped and the quarterback was immediately tackled by a rushing gnome. Plex hadn’t even seen Coach Sprout make that formation change, but the diminutive rusher slipped through the defense and wrapped up the quarterbacks legs, giving them a loss of four yards.

Half the crowd cheered. Half the crowd booed. Plex wasn’t sure why they were doing either, honestly. Maybe they were cheering for the gnome? Maybe they were booing the gnome? It didn’t really matter. He had a job to do.

Pulling on his helmet, he trotted onto the field with the rest of his offensive line and then, once huddled, looked to the sideline to see what play Coach Sprout wanted them to run. It was a running play. That was good because it was less likely they would pick up a ton of yards but once the ball left his hands he would no longer be in control of what happened with the play. He relayed the play to his teammates and they broke to get into position.

Plex barked out the cadence. His center hiked him the ball, he caught it, and handed it to the minotaur. As he watched the running back run for a short gain, his mind wandered back to how he was going to handle the rest of the game. It would be easy to keep the score close. That wasn’t the problem. No, the problem was that anything he did in this game to keep the score close could have serious consequences in their next games.
If he played badly, it would cause his team to lose faith in him, which could affect their play in the future. He could also twist it just a bit and make it look like some of his teammates were playing badly. A fumbled handoff to the running back, or a pass that is close enough for his receiver to touch, but not catch easily. If he did that, it would have a negative effect on his teammates’ confidence, which would also affect their play in the future.

The safest play would be to do a combination of both. As long as they won, he didn’t think that a few bad plays here and there would cause too much of a problem. Once the game was over, he’d blame it on the time constraints causing a lack of chemistry. It was a plausible excuse, one that they would latch onto. All he had to worry about now was pulling it off.

Coach Sprout called the next play, another run. Plex again took the snap and held the ball out for the running back to grab. Just before the minotaur touched it, Plex let go of the ball. It hit the outside of his running back’s hand and bounced forward towards the line of scrimmage. A mad scramble ensued after shouts of, “Fumble!” filled the air around him. The Honor Guard referees picked their way through the pile and found the person who picked up the ball.

A large ogre defensive lineman emerged from the crowd with the ball in his hands. Plex wanted to smile at his plan’s success, but forced it down. Instead he shot his running back an accusatory look. The minotaur, Glavven, was clearly confused. He had no idea how he had muffed the exchange. Plex softened his expression as they walked to the sideline. “Don’t worry,” he said to Glavven. “It’s just one play. We’ll get it back and you’ll ram it down their throats again.”

Glavven nodded resolutely and the two of them walked over to Coach Sprout. Plex was expecting to be yelled at, but Sprout just gave them words of encouragement and ordered them to work on their exchanges while the defense was out on the field. The two of them did as instructed, stopping only when the crowd erupted in cheers. Looking over, they saw that the other team had scored another touchdown, this time with a pass. After the extra point made the score sixteen to fourteen in favor of Gilania’s team, Glavven ran out onto the field to catch the kickoff.

The minotaur returned it to their thirty-five yard line and Plex ran out onto the field. Sprout called a pass play, knowing they had to hurry if they wanted to score before halftime. Plex’s plan was looking good. If he drove them down to kick a field goal, they’d be back up by one point again. All he had to do was drive them into field goal range before stalling the drive out.

His elven receiver broke across the field right after he received the hiked ball. Plex let it fly. As soon as the ball left his hand, his receiver stumbled and fell. Everything went quiet for the briefest moment as he watched his pass, which would have been perfect, fly right into his sister’s waiting hands. He broke free from his stupor and ran to tackle her, but she had picked up a line of blockers. Before he knew it, he had been knocked onto his backside and Gilania was in the endzone.