With his helmet in his hands, shoulder pads on his shoulders and the number ten on his back, Javan paced the sidelines behind his teammates on the junior varsity football squad. The band played in the stands. Cheerleaders jumped around and yelled on the track. The sun hadn’t yet set, but the stadium lights were on anyway.
Not many fans watched from the bleachers, so spotting Julianne had been easy. He wanted to make sure she saw him. In his spiffy white uniform. On the team. Looking buff with all his pads.
He had tortured himself to make the team. All the running and conditioning and strength training in the heat of the late summer sun had turned his body into one giant bruise.
He had been one of half a dozen guys to tryout for the role of quarterback. All of his competitors had played football before. The only experience Javan had was the private throwing practices he had put himself through at home.
His practice had paid off. He beat everyone out. Except Gavin. Now Gavin was on the field running the first offensive play of the game, and Javan was riding the bench as the back-up quarterback. How was that supposed to impress Julianne? He needed to get in the game. He needed her to see him play.
Surely he would get his chance. He could throw with more accuracy than Gavin and knew how to run the plays better. Gavin could outrun him, though. And outtalk him. His charismatic, outgoing personality won him more points than his athletic prowess. It also didn’t hurt that his father was the principal of the school.
As time ticked away, so did Javan’s chances of getting in the game. Javan would stand by the coach at the end of every defensive possession, but the coach kept sending Gavin out to the field with every offensive possession. Gavin botched about as many plays as he completed, but that didn’t seem to earn Gavin any bench time.
With two minutes to go and his team up by a touchdown, Javan finally spoke up as the other team punted. “Coach, can I play this last possession?”
“Not this time, Javan,” the coach said without even looking at him. “The game’s too close. We’re going to let Gavin finish this one.”
“Get used to the sidelines,” Gavin whispered in his ear. “This is where you’re going to live all season.” He patted Javan’s shoulder and took the field.
Javan sighed and looked back at Julianne. She was smiling, and her eyes were locked on the quarterback in the game.
If he was ever going to get her attention, he was going to have to beat out Gavin as the starting quarterback. It wouldn’t be an easy task, but Javan loved a good challenge. e