Table of Contents
of shoulder pad against shoulder pad sent Manny sailing, spinning to the ground as the runner brushed past him. Manny had been blindsided by another blocker just as he was about to make the tackle. . . .
The coaches were shaking their heads and frowning. “You guys are killing us,” Coach Reynolds said in the direction of the kickoff-team players who were scrunched together near the bench.
Manny took a seat and left his helmet on, staring at the ground. Two kickoffs, two letdowns. Both times the ball carrier had run right through Manny’s territory.
“We’re dead,” Donald said to Manny. “That was all our fault.”
“I know,” Manny said. “We blew it.”
ALSO BY RICH WALLACE
Winning Season Series
Restless: A Ghost’s Story
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
(a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
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New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
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Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by Viking,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2004
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2005
Copyright © Rich Wallace, 2004 All rights reserved
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE VIKING EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
The roar of the crowd / by Rich Wallace
p. cm.–(Winning Season ; #1)
Summary: After years of playing nothing but soccer in Hudson City, New Jersey,
Manny has to work very hard to play on the middle school football team, using
determination, speed, and smarts to make up for being small and inexperienced.
ISBN : 978-1-101-54973-5
anny was angry. He shifted his weight from his right knee to his left and balled his hand into a fist, wishing there was something to smack. He bit hard on his plastic mouth guard and looked up at the practice field.
Vinnie DiMarco, the quarterback, was rolling out toward the sideline, running almost straight toward Manny and the other subs. DiMarco straight-armed a tackler and wiggled loose, but big Anthony Martin hauled him down and tackled him hard at the sideline.
“Nice hustle, Anthony,” Manny said, leaping to his feet to avoid getting rolled on. Anthony nodded and gave a yawn that stretched his chubby brown face until his eyes were nearly shut. He looked exhausted after an hour of scrimmaging in the hot August sun.
Manny had spent the hour watching the first-string offense battle the first-string defense. He hadn’t been in for even one play. This wasn’t why he’d joined the Hudson City Hornets.
Tired football players stood or kneeled near him, their faces sweaty and their jerseys covered with dirt.
Manny expected to play. So what if he weighed only eighty-seven pounds? He was as tough as anybody out there.
Coach Reynolds walked over near Manny and looked at his clipboard. “You three runts,” he said, pointing at Manny, Donald, and Rico. “Get in there at the linebacker spots after this next play. Show me what you can do.”
Manny thought. He pulled his helmet down over his dark, curly hair and ran in place for a few seconds, then jumped straight up and down a couple of times. He could feel his heart pumping harder.
I’m gonna nail somebody.
The next play ended in an incomplete pass, and Manny and the other two trotted onto the field. Manny took his place as middle linebacker. He could hear the defensive linemen panting.
The offense had grinded the ball just over the 50-yard line and had come close to breaking a few long gains. Now DiMarco was calling signals, waiting for the snap. The lone running back went in motion and the ends were split wide. Everything indicated that it would be a pass play.
Don’t get burned,
Manny thought. He took a step back in anticipation of a quick pass over the middle. But DiMarco took the snap and immediately rolled out to his right, toward the far sideline.
A lineman raced toward Manny and threw his shoulder into him, but Manny dodged to the side and took only a glancing blow. DiMarco had crossed the line of scrimmage now and was turning downfield, a line of blockers clearing his path.
Manny was fast and he eluded another blocker and angled toward the sideline, sensing that he could catch DiMarco about 30 yards downfield if no one else got there first.
Manny told himself.
Show them what you’ve got.
He could feel the dirt kicking up behind him as his cleats drove him toward the ball carrier, tasting the sweat that was trickling off his lip. He was gaining on DiMarco now, cutting down the distance as they raced for the goal line.
DiMarco crossed the 20-yard line, then the 10. Manny was inches away, and he dove, snagging DiMarco’s shin and holding on tight. They crashed to the dirt and the ball shook loose, rolling out of bounds.
Manny leaped up. He’d saved a touchdown. What would the coaches think of that?
But as he looked around he saw that the coaches’ attention was elsewhere. The other players had already started a long, slow lap around the perimeter of the field. No one was even watching.
“Nice tackle,” DiMarco said flatly. “Let’s go.”
“What?” Manny said.
“That’s it. Last play. Coach told us in the huddle. We’ve got five laps to run. Let’s go.”
“You’re kidding me,” Manny said. “I got in for
“Tough break, huh?”
Manny stood still as DiMarco jogged off.
A whistle blew. “Pick up that football, kid,” yelled one of the coaches. “Let’s see some hustle.”
Manny grabbed the football and started to run, his face getting hot with anger. Most of his teammates were half a lap ahead already. Manny ran to the sideline and dropped the football in disgust. Then he took off after the others.
His breath was steady but hard, coming out in short little bursts as he glared ahead and moved faster. Soon he’d passed the stragglers—Anthony and other linemen drained by the scrimmage, and a few lazy backs whose places in the starting lineup were secure.
Manny picked up the pace as he began his second lap, passing DiMarco and some others and taking aim at the leaders. He swung wide to pass a few more in the end zone, then moved into the lead as he headed along the far sideline.
After four laps Manny was well ahead of everyone, and he sprinted the last one at top speed, still seething from his one-play afternoon.
Coach Reynolds was grinning as Manny yanked off his helmet and walked a few yards to catch his breath. “Good running,” he said.
“Right,” Manny said.
“You ought to run cross-country in high school,” the coach said with a laugh.
“Yeah . . . well I ain’t
high school,” Manny said, trying not to let too much venom into his words. “I’m on this team.”
The coach nodded. “I’ll try to remember that,” he said.
“I hope so.”
Coach gave him a stare, but then softened his expression. He pointed a finger at Manny. “Don’t get smart,” he said. “But keep up the hustle. I was watching that last play. There’ll be more chances, believe me.”
The Discount Bin
anny stuck his cleats and mouth guard inside his helmet and carried it all by the face mask. “You coming?” he said to his scrawny friend Donald.
“Yeah,” Donald said. Donald was still kneeling by the cooler of water, wiped out from the five laps. “Give me a second. I’m not a marathoner like you are.”
Manny shrugged. “Small guys like us better be able to run. It’s too easy to get knocked out otherwise.”
They headed across the practice field toward the Boulevard. They both lived on the other side of town, a mile walk from the field. Hudson City was small but dense, the side streets lined with old houses on small lots. The Boulevard was loaded with coffee shops and delis and liquor stores.
“We’ll stop and get a soda,” Manny said.
“You got any money?”
“I’ve got a couple of dollars.”
“I got a quarter in my shoe,” Donald said. “It was digging into my foot the whole time we were running.”
“Yeah,” Donald said. “But I’m starving.”
“You won’t get much for a quarter.”
“Yeah, I will. There’s always the discount bin.”
They ducked into the small grocery store at the corner of the Boulevard and Ninth, across from St. Joseph’s Church. They had to turn sideways to get through the doorway because of their shoulder pads and the stacks of cardboard boxes on the sidewalk.
“Ahh,” said Manny, shutting his eyes for a second to enjoy the air-conditioned coolness. “What a difference.”
They walked up the canned-soup and pasta aisle toward the baked goods section at the back of the store. The aisles were narrow and stacked high.
“Twinkies,” Donald said. “I need Twinkies.”
They reached the back and Donald started pawing through the discount bin, where items that were turning stale or had ripped packaging were marked down. “No Twinkies,” he said. “Nothing good at all.”
Donald glanced around, then flicked his eyebrows up at Manny. He gently brought his helmet down on an individual-sized apple pie, pushing until the box was partly flattened and the pie filling was coming through the crust.
“Oh,” Donald said in mock surprise. “I didn’t see this pie at first. Looks like a bargain to me.”
Manny shook his head. Donald grabbed the pie and they hurried up the aisle. Manny slid open the door of the soda cooler and took out a couple of bottles; then they got in line to pay.
“This was in the discount bin,” Donald lied to the teenage girl at the register, handing her the pie. “It isn’t marked.”
The girl looked at the pie for a few seconds, twisted her mouth around, and sighed.
“Shouldn’t be more than a quarter,” Donald said.
“Sounds about right,” she answered, and punched in the sale.
They laughed as they left the store. “You shouldn’t do that,” Manny said, but he was grinning.