The Cracks Show
Driving rain swept across the surface of the tiny football stadium near the edge of the state. Nearby, Bayou Lafourche mingled with various lakes, bays and canals on its course to the Gulf of Mexico and it seemed like all of that water was being picked up and dumped onto one spot in the small town of Galliano.
That didn’t stop the home crowd from turning out in droves to support their South Lafourche Tarpons. The stands were full, and some people spilled out to the track surrounding the field. Drenched banners were hung up and flags of every kind waved through the wind.
“We even in the same state?” Hasan asked Devin as the two of them stood on the sideline. He pointed to a few instances of the stars and bars. “I thought only Alabama hadn’t gotten the 200-year-old memo that they lost.”
Devin shrugged and wiped rain away that hadn’t gotten through to his face. “Mais, welcome to S’at Lafooche, sha. The Vandebilt guys were talking on the way down here. Said we should watch our nuts or some shit.”
“Watch our nuts? What the fuck does that even mean?”
“Terrebonne quarterback Ron DeRossi heads to the line of scrimmage for the first time tonight. With the way this rain is coming down, I’m surprised that he can see the offensive linemen let alone the defense to be able to make adjustments. You have to expect these teams will keep the ball on the ground for this one.”
Hasan took the handoff from Ron and headed toward the gap between the right guard and center. It closed quickly as players struggled to find purchase on the increasingly muddy turf. He ran into the back of his teammates and tried to bounce it outside but was met by defenders.
Wrapping up the ball, he braced for the hit. But he didn’t expect to be flung to the ground by his facemask. And he didn’t expect another two players to dive on him after he’d hit the turf.
As he was getting up, he felt himself getting punched by the players who’d tackled him before being shoved back to the ground.
Other Terrebonne players pushed the South Lafourche players away and helped Hasan to his feet.
But there were no flags for the afters.
Hasan turned to the nearest ref, standing only a few feet away awaiting to get the ball. “I know you saw that!”
“Shut up and play ball, boy. We won’t be having none of that backtalk tonight,” the referee said before snatching up the ball and tossing it to another official.
“DeRossi fires it out to Shawntoine Jackson for a short gain of fo—Whoa! You don’t get a more obvious roughing the passer call than that! Trent Bergeron basically body slammed DeRossi into the turf well after the ball was out of his hand. No flag on the play, though. Somehow.”
“Jenkins is calling for the ball over the middle of the field – But he’s taken down by two Tarpon defenders and the ball sails incomplete. Surely, the referees are going to throw a flag on that one for interference. They’re signaling fourth down. No flag on the play.”
The defense jogged out onto the field feeling dejected. For the first time all season, they’d followed the offense onto the field without a touchdown being put on the board.
Devin felt his feet sinking into the unkempt field, likely a purposeful decision by the school for games like this when it quickly dissolved into a swamp. Tough for the away team to play on, but right at home for the Tarpons.
Devin looked inside to the quarterback, straining his eyes to see through the rain that had seemingly started coming down harder. The ball was snapped at the toss came in his direction.
The wide receiver tied him up with an ample amount of jersey clenched between his hands. Devin tried to break free, but the kid had a good grip on him. He spotted the pulling guard and expected the play to pass him by.
Instead, the guard dove at his legs for a textbook chop block. Devin shouted out in pain as he fell to the turf.
The Terrebonne bench was incensed as the play was blown dead when the tackle was made. Coach Hill spat venom at the line judge for not throwing his flag, but the official simply jogged further down the field without a word.
Fortunately, Devin was able to get to his feet under his own power and walk off the field.
“Midway through the first quarter, Terrebonne trail for the first time this year down 7-0, and things are starting to get chippy down there already. If the referees don’t get a hold of this game, it could descend into an outright brawl.”
“Cazayoux is taken down by his facemask, but don’t expect any calls coming from this crew, ladies and gentlemen.”
“DeRossi is blasted for what has to be the 10th time tonight and none of them have even been remotely legal hits. You have to admire that young man for continuing to get up from the punishment that he’s taking.”
“One, two, three, four. There were at least four holding calls on that play by South Lafourche and I’m looking down on the field from the booth and through the rain.”
“Blake Guidroz throws it for the first time tonight and it’s PICKED OFF BY ANTHONY LEDET! He takes it 15 yards before being brought down at the Tarpon 31. Everyone looks to the referees expecting some kind of flag, but it’s Tigers football! With 15 seconds left to play in the half, Terrebonne has a chance to tie it up.”
“Terrebonne opt to keep it on the ground with a pitch out to Santiago. He makes a man miss and South Lafourche has overcommitted! He has space and blockers ahead of him! Santiago jogs into the endzone for an easy touchdown to tie the game up heading into halftime! Wait! That’s a late hit from Bubba Larpenter! Cazayoux throws a punch at the linebacker and it’s all out chaos on the field! The referees have officially lost control of this one!”
Coach Hill walked into the locker room with purpose. He slammed his hand against a whiteboard set up in the tiny visitors’ digs. The room quieted and everyone looked toward him.
“We don’t fucking retaliate! I don’t want to hear about them playing dirty. I don’t want to hear about the refs I don’t want to hear one God damn word about it. We are not going to be that team!” he yelled, face reddening as he wiped rain from his brow. He pointed at Britton. “You’re not playing in the second half.”
“Coach, it was a late hit!” Britton said, defending himself.
“And you threw a punch. You’re lucky I’m pulling you instead of you getting tossed by the referees. You can think about it on the bench.”
Britton threw his helmet at the floor. “This is fucking bullshit.”
The coach ignored the outburst and turned to the rest of the team. “Let that be a message to the rest of you. When they go low, we’re going to go high and get out of this game with our pride and integrity intact. No exceptions!”
“Batted down by Coleman and the Tarpons will be forced to punt again.”
“Jackson is stopped at the line of scrimmage to make it fourth down. The Terrebonne punting unit comes out onto the field.”
“King makes the stop on third and long. Yet another punt in a second half that has been much quieter than the first.”
“The pass is too high from DeRossi and the Tigers fail to move the ball into their opponents’ side of the field yet again.”
“The Tarpons roll the dice on a short fourth down and are stopped for a turnover on downs. Terrebonne football.”
“Get the ball out in space, coach,” Coach Thomas said to his younger counterpart. “They can’t deal with our speed even in this slop.”
Coach Hill looked at him and shook his head before relaying a playcall into Ron. Another run straight up the middle. “How about you let me call my game? And you stick to the defensive side of things, huh?”
Thomas shrugged. “If you want to lose to a bunch of cousin-fucking hicks from down the bayou then by all means keep pounding it straight up the middle but know that you’re just showing everyone that you’re a bad coach.”
“A bad coach? Fuck you, old man.”
“It looks like you’re looking at another third and long after another dumb playcall,” Coach Thomas said before walking away.
“Jenkins catches the ball in the flat on what looks like a quick screen. HURDLES A MAN! AND HE’S TURNS UP FIELD! He’s finally pushed out of bounds at the Tarpon 4-yard-line and this game has been sparked back into life!”
“DeRossi drops back, lofts it to the back of the endzone and Jenkins comes down with it. Terrebonne touchdown! Terrebonne lead! Terrebonne lead late in the fourth quarter!”
“Fourth and goal here. It looks like this will be the last roll of the dice for Trahan’s South Lafourche. Guidroz takes the snap and bobbles it! He sprints out to his right and is almost immediately taken down by Devin King! Turnover on downs! Turnover on downs!”
Devin popped up to his feet quickly, knowing that a Tarpon offensive linemen would take the opportunity to leave something extra on him now that the game was out of reach.
He thought about reaching a hand out to help the quarterback to his feet but when the South Lafourche signal caller spat at Devin’s feet, he just left him to wallow in his self-pity as he jogged off the field – ready to get the absolute fuck out of Galliano.
With only seconds left on the clock, South Lafourche burned their final timeout despite being down with no chance to make a miraculous comeback should Ron fumble the snap on the last play of the game. But the coach called the timeout nonetheless.
Coach Hill grabbed Ron’s jersey to stop him from running out onto the field when the referees signaled for play to resume. “Get in shotgun for the snap. I don’t need them trying to hurt my quarterback on a dead play.”
Ron nodded and ran out on the field. He signaled with his hands for the victory formation but relayed the slight change to Hasan, Bart and Britton. He faced Caesar and did the victory formation signal again, then once more but this time upside down.
Stepping into position, Ron faked the snap twice and noticed the South Lafourche linemen jumping as if they were going to actually play out the last down at full speed.
“Red 80, Red 80! Hut!”
Ron caught the snap cleanly and took two steps back before bending his legs as if he was going to kneel. Instead, he threw the ball to Caesar who was wide open.
Caesar took off down the field as boos rained from the stands. He slowed down to let the Tarpon defensive backs catch up before speeding up once more, waving at them and making a mouthing gesture with his hand as he ran into the endzone.
To put an exclamation mark on it, he jumped over the line and slid through the mud in the endzone.
An opposing player met him when he got back to his feet and threw a punch. Caesar stumbled back to avoid it, but lost his footing in the mud. The benches cleared as players from both teams converged on the endzone.
Cops joined the coaching staffs and the referees as they tried to separate the two teams while also making sure no fans decided to join in. Trash was thrown from the stands in the direction of the players before order was restored and the teams sent to the locker rooms.
Coach Hill stormed into the locker room behind the team, his face red with anger. He pointed at Caesar who was laughing with Ron, but no words formed on his lips to chastise the receiver.
Instead, he kicked over a garbage can. “There’s no pride in that! Get your shit and get on the busses. Keep your helmets and pads on. Hurry up!”
The team groaned but did as they were told. The trek from the visitor’s locker room to the busses was lined with South Lafourche fans who hurled insults, bags of popcorn and drinks at Terrebonne’s players as they boarded the bus.
Devin heard more than a few racial slurs hurled his way, but kept his head down and kept walking not wanting to egg them on.
Caesar, on the other hand, blew kisses and gave them a princess wave as he passed.
However, there were no celebrations on the busses as the last one pulled out of that Galliano parking lot and started the hour-long trek back to Terrebonne.