THE SECRET WEAPON
“Down, set, hut one, hut two!” The football flew over Rocky’s head. Sometimes Lawrence just couldn’t hike the football to the punter very well. Poor Trevon ran after the ball, as it rolled toward our own end zone. As soon as he picked it up, five guys from the Rams’ team piled up on top of him.
Rocky blurted out, “Come on, Lawrence! When are you going to learn how to hike the ball into my hands?”
Lawrence answered, “Sorry, man. I just get too nervous when we’re up against a really tough team.”
Coach Fong talked firmly to the two teammates. “Young men, we’re all on the same team, aren’t we? You guys simply can’t be fighting with each other. No one is perfect. We just have to look forward, try harder, and make the best of what we’ve got.”
But one minute later, the Rams ran the ball into our end zone. They were now ahead, fourteen to zero. Thank goodness it was halftime. Now we could take a breath, regroup, and rethink our game plan.
As soon as we got to the locker room, at least ten of us yelled out, “Bring in Tyree! Bring in Tyree!”
Tyree was our Secret Weapon. Coach Fong never put him in during the first half. It would be unfair. But, hey, if the Knicks could ever find a center who was eight feet tall, they WOULD play him, right?
Tyree was, well, a giant. We’d never seen a ninth-grader as big as Tyree. He was six feet, five inches tall. He weighed two-hundred-twenty pounds, and all of it was muscle. Plus, he could move like lightning!
Coach just parked him in front of the other team’s center. The game almost always went our way after that. Tyree could plow through their front line like a sharp knife through whipped cream.
Tyree blocked passes. He tackled the halfback and the fullback. And Coach Fong would put him in on the Special Team, too, when we had to punt. He would be the first player down the field. The poor kid who caught the punt would get slammed to the ground, wondering if he’d get a bad bruise from the hit.
The second half started in our favor. We were to receive the kickoff. Coach put Tyree in to block, and block he did! He must have plowed down five of the Rams. He created a vacuum that allowed Marvin Jones to carry the ball all the way to midfield. Now we felt like we were in this game for the first time.
Our cheerleaders were pumping us up, chanting our favorite cheer. “The Rams are sheep. Like Little Bo-Peep. They’re in too deep. They look asleep. They’re gonna weep!” Three plays later, we had our first touchdown!
We brought in our Secret Weapon for the kick. Tyree was growling like an angry bear. He yelled down the field, “Get out of my way! I’m coming to get you! If you catch the football, I’m going to be the guy who tackles you!”
He was like a wild animal. He was jumping up and down. He was huffing and puffing. If I had been on the other team, I would have just walked over to the sidelines and quit, right there.
The ground shook as Tyree rumbled down the field. He knocked down lots of the Ram blockers. Thump number one. Thump number two. Thump number three. You could hear a lot of loud grunts, as each soldier dropped, one after another.
Tyree got to the ball-carrier. WHAM! Tyree raised his hands into the air and let out a loud Klingon battle cry. The poor runner just lay there, with the breath knocked out of him. The Rams almost had to bring over a stretcher to carry him out.
In just three plays, the Rams lost seven yards, with Tyree leading the charge on each down. The Rams had to punt, and Tyree blitzed the line so hard that the weak kick carried only twenty yards.
We were now in great field position. After three successful first downs, our quarterback rifled a perfect pass to Marvin. We scored again, and now we were tied, fourteen to fourteen. A new game had just begun.
The cheerleaders were having lots of fun. “Slam a Ram. Turn him into ham. Wham and bam a Ram, till he looks like a mashed-up yam!”
But from now until the two-minute drill, it was a non-scoring stalemate. Our teams were like two Russian chess masters, playing for a draw. It was all defense, with little offense. It was really tense, both on the field, and in the packed bleachers.
Then we got our break. It was time for Tyree, the Secret Weapon, to play his best card, which was his hard tackling capability. The Rams had the ball on the fifty-yard line. Tyree had worked himself up like a crazed Tasmanian devil. It looked like his eyes were going to pop out.
“Down. Set. Fifty-two. Thirty-nine.” The Rams’ quarterback got the ball, faked a handoff, then threw the ball six yards to their tight end. Poor guy. The Weapon was all over him, and Tyree ripped the ball right out of the opponent’s clutches.
The ball zigged and zagged. It was bouncing all over the place, like a Mexican jumping bean. Tyree plowed down three Rams, scooped up the ball, and then, well, he just … stopped!
He looked one way, and then the other. Tyree was totally confused. He fought off two Rams; they couldn’t get him down. But finally, he lurched forward like a rocket. No one could catch him.
But the crowd was yelling, “No! No, Tyree! The other way! Run the other way!” The poor Weapon was lost. He was running the ball towards OUR end zone, not toward the Rams’.
When he crossed the goal line, he spiked the ball, thinking that he was a hero. He thought he’d scored a touchdown. But when he looked up, he saw the entire Rams team running towards him. You could tell that he didn’t have a clue about what was actually happening.
He ran after the ball, snatched it up, and started to move to his right. But three Rams cut him off quickly.
Then Tyree ran to his left. A wall of Rams were waiting for him. Even Tyree couldn’t fend off six guys at once. They had to fight to get him down, but the tackle was finally successful, and the Rams earned their two-point safety by downing him in our own Jets’ end zone.
Tyree got up slowly, and he slumped off of the field in a daze, his head hanging low. A few plays later, the Rams had won the game, sixteen to fourteen. Their cheerleaders were mocking us, using our own cheerleaders’ clever rhyming technique: “The Jets are like a house pet! They’re wet. They’re upset. They need to visit the vet.”
Tyree was so ashamed of what he’d done, that he refused to play in the next two games. But this ended up being a good learning experience for all of us. Coach Fong realized that we had become too dependent on our Secret Weapon, and that most of the players on the team had gotten a tiny bit lazy.
We tried hard to pump Tyree up, letting him know that what he did could have happened to anyone. So he gradually got over his funk, and he started to act like our favorite player again.
At the same time, Coach worked us, harder than ever, on simple basics. Our tackles were tougher. Our hikes were crisper. Our punts were longer. Our blocking was stronger. Our Special Team was meaner. Our ball-carriers were faster.
In the locker room before our Championship Game against the Eagles, Coach helped us to feel really proud. “Gentlemen, at that tough Rams game a few weeks ago, we had a single Secret Weapon, Tyree. In this game, we now have a much more powerful Secret Weapon. And that is ALL of you, working together, as a whole TEAM! Now, let’s go crush ’em.”
So that’s exactly what we did! And we were both proud and happy that Tyree was awarded the trophy for the Most Valuable Player of the game!
1. The game being played in this story is:
2. Who was the Secret Weapon?
a) Coach Fong
b) Marvin Jones
3. What was the specialty of the Secret Weapon?
a) he was good at tackling
b) he was good at throwing the ball
c) he was good at kicking the ball
4. What was the big mistake that the Secret Weapon made?
a) he dropped the ball
b) he ran to the wrong end zone with the ball
c) he hurt a player on the other team
5. What valuable lesson did the team learn from this error?
a) to work together as a team and not rely on one person
b) that their Secret Weapon was not very good after all
c) that their coach was not very good at coaching them