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Authors: Matt Christopher

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BOOK: Catch That Pass!
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“Bucky,” said Jim as they were walking home, “thanks for telling Hook off. But maybe you shouldn’t have. Maybe you’ve made
an enemy.”

“No loss,” replied Bucky. “He’s just a big blowhard, anyway. Let’s just forget it. We’ve got enough to think about with next
week’s game with the Saturns coming up. Just think — it’s our last game of the season.”

“And it’s also our last chance to win second place in the league,” Jim replied grimly.

“One! Two! Three!”

Rip Kiley, the Saturns’ quarterback, caught the snap from center and faded back. Jim Nardi started through the narrow gap
between center and left tackle. The center fell in front of him, stopping him momentarily. Jim got up and struggled forward.
At the same time, Rip lateraled the ball to his left halfback. The halfback started toward his right side of the line, then
saw Jim coming and reversed his run.

Jim chased him toward the left side of the line. There he and right linebacker Yak Lee tackled the runner for a two-yard loss.

“Jim, what would you have done if you were that runner?” asked Bucky.

“What d’you mean?”

“Well, you and Yak came at him like a couple of tanks.”

“Oh.” Jim shrugged. He knew what Bucky meant, all right. “I don’t know,” he said finally. “Guess I’d do what he did. I’d go
down.”

Bucky laughed. “Yeah! Guess you would, wouldn’t you?”

The Saturns’ ball was on their thirty-one. Second and twelve. No score and less than four minutes to go in the first quarter.

The snap from center. Rip Kiley faded back. He tossed a short one over the left side of the line. Jim saw it coming, but the
play was too far away. The Saturn end caught it and was smeared almost on the spot by Yak Lee. A gain of four yards.

Third and eight. Another pass. A long
one. Jim halted inches away from Rip, turned, and saw the ball spiraling beautifully through the air. A glimmer of hope welled
in him as he saw Hook Wheeler coming up under the ball. Catch it, Hook! Catch it!

Hook leaped. He caught it! Or did he? Jim saw a blue-uniformed player behind him, saw him sprint down the field, Hook chasing
after him. Hook couldn’t catch up. The Saturn went over for a touchdown. Seconds later they converted. Seven to nothing.

In the second quarter, the Saturns’ burly fullback broke through a hole in the line and scampered down the field for a fifty-nine-yard
run. Two plays later, they got their second touchdown. Then converted. Fourteen to nothing.

“That Chuckie’s got guts,” said Bucky
thoughtfully. “He came in his wheelchair, but he’s yelling like everybody else.”

Guts, thought Jim. The will to do something above all odds and not give up. He had read that somewhere. Chuckie had it, all
right.

Ken Morris took the kickoff and ran it back to the Vulcans’ thirty-three. Chris Howe handed off to Ronnie Holmes, and the
fullback galloped to the thirty-nine. On the next play, right tackle Marv Wallace was offside and the ref placed the ball
back on the thirty-four.

“Nice going, Marv,” grumbled Bucky.

Chris tried to pass. It was incomplete. Then Ronnie booted a punt that hit the twenty-yard stripe and bounced out of bounds.

“Hold ’em, Jim!” yelled a familiar voice as Jim pulled on his helmet and started out on the field.

The Vulcans’ defense held the Saturns from scoring, but when the offense took the field, the Saturns’ powerful defense held
them, too. The half ended with the score still 14–0 in the Saturns’ favor.

14

G
o team, go!” yelled the Vulcan fans as the teams ran onto the field to start the second half. The fifteen-minute break had
given the Vulcans time to rest, time to regain some of their much-needed stamina. They felt fresh, eager, and ready to go.

The Saturns kicked off. Mike Ritter caught the ball and carried it almost to midfield in a dodging, twisting, galloping run.

In three plays, the Vulcans gained a first down, putting them in Saturn territory. A long pass to Ben Trainor was complete
and
down on the Saturns’ fourteen. Then Chris fumbled and a Saturn landed on the ball.

“Shucks!” grunted Bucky, running onto the field with Jim. “Thought we were heading for a touchdown!”

“Let’s get the ball back from ’em.”

“Gee!” Bucky said, grinning, flashing white teeth behind the bars of his face mask. “Who would’ve thought of that but you!”

Rip Kiley tried a pass. It was incomplete. He tried another, a short one over center. Jim saw it spiraling toward a Saturn,
button-hooking in from his left side. He sprinted in that direction, leaped, and caught the ball! As he came down with it,
he saw the Saturn dive at him. A paralyzing fear suddenly took hold of him — the same fear he had felt several times before
when he had intercepted a pass.

Hang on! he told himself. Hang on!

He not only hung on — he stiff-armed the
Saturn, broke through the pile of tackles and guards to the left, and sprinted down the field! A safety man charged at him.
He shifted the ball to his left arm, stiff-armed the man, and raced on. Another Saturn was coming at him. Jim put on more
speed and kept his distance ahead of the Saturn.

And then he was in the end zone. Touchdown!

The Vulcan fans stood up in the stands and shouted like crazy. “All right, Jim!”

“Beautiful, Jim! Beautiful!” yelled Doug.

Even Hook Wheeler slapped him on the back and grinned. “I take back everything, Jim! Nice play!”

“Thanks, Hook.”

Hook kicked for the extra point. It was good.

The game went into the fourth quarter with the Saturns still leading 14–7. It was their ball on the Vulcans’ thirty-one. First
and ten. The Saturns took a handoff from Rip Kiley and plunged through tackle for eight yards, then tried the same thing and
hit a cement wall.

Bucky chuckled. “We don’t let ’em do things like that more than once,” he said.

Third and two. The fullback tried a line buck through the other side of the line. A loss of one. Then the Saturns went into
punt formation. The fullback kicked. The ball rolled into the end zone, and the ref placed it on the twenty.

The Vulcans tried a reverse and gained eleven yards. Ronnie Holmes broke off-tackle for six. Then Chris, on an option, ran
for sixteen yards around right end. A long pass to Pete Witz clicked, and the score was 14–13. Ronnie kicked for the extra
point.

It missed by inches!

“Lousy luck!” cried Jim, slapping his thigh resentfully.

No one was sitting on the bench. The coaches, the subs, and the defensive unit were all standing. The atmosphere was crackling
with suspense.

“Get out there, you guys, and get that ball!” yelled Doug. “Come on, Hook! Buck! Jim! The old fight!”

The Saturns ran the kickoff back to their twenty-nine, only five yards from where they had caught the ball. They tried a run
around left end and gained two yards.

Then Rip Kiley flipped a short pass over the line of scrimmage. It was high and looping. Was it too high? Jim leaped as high
as he could and touched the ball with the tips of his fingers. It dropped, and Jim pulled it to his chest. He tore through
a hole in the scrimmage line and just got past it when he saw two Saturns charging at him, one from his left side, the other
from his right.

He grabbed the ball to his stomach,
lowered his head, and bolted forward. Then they hit him. Helmets and shoulder pads thumped. He felt pain in his sides and
in his arms as he sagged and the men piled on him.

He heard the whistle. The Saturns climbed off him, and he lifted his head and saw the ref standing above him, reaching for
the ball. He sprang to his feet and saw Bucky, Marv, Yak Lee, and Hook grinning at him.

They ran off the field and let the offense take over. In two running plays, the Vulcans advanced the ball to the Saturns’
eight. Ronnie bucked for three, then two, then Chris took it over. Ronnie kicked the extra point, and the Vulcans went into
the lead 20–14.

Fifty seconds later, the game was over. The Vulcans shouted and danced. Some of them tossed their helmets into the air. Then
they went and shook hands with the unhappy, beaten Saturns.

“You know what?” said Hook. “I hate to see the season end. We were just gettin’ started.”

“I feel like that, too,” said Jim. “Maybe we can get more teams in the league next year. How about it, Coach?” He smiled at
his brother.

“Maybe,” replied Doug. Then he smiled, too. “Little brother,” he said, “you did fine. Just fine. You know, several years back,
when I was playing—” He shrugged and shook his head a little. “I’ll tell you about it some other time.”

Jim met his eyes squarely. “You don’t have to, Doug. I know all about it.”

Doug frowned. He started to say something, but just then Chuckie Gorman pulled up between Doug and Jim in his wheelchair
and stuck out his hand. He shook Doug’s hand first and then Jim’s.

“Congratulations, you guys,” he said. “I knew you’d pull it off. But I was sweating it out for a while!” He looked up at Jim,
and his eyes twinkled. “Coming over after supper tonight, Jim? I’ll let you race the Porsche. I’ve got new wheels on it.”

“New wheels?” cried Jim. “You bet I’ll be there!”

 

 

FINAL STANDINGS

WON
LOST
Cadets
5
1
Vulcans
3
3
Saturns
2
4
Astrojets
2
4
Matt Christopher
®

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THE #1 SPORTS SERIES FOR KIDS
MATT CHRISTOPHER
®
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Baseball Turnaround
Double Play at Short
The Basket Counts
Face-Off
Body Check
Fairway Phenom
Catch That Pass!
Football Double Threat
Catcher with a Glass Arm
Football Fugitive
Catching Waves
Football Nightmare
Center Court Sting
The Fox Steals Home
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