This is the seventh chapter of the BENchwarmer serial, published exclusively on wholesome-stories.com. Make sure you have read the earlier chapters before reading this one.
With their chances of winning quickly fading, I fully expected the Sharks to ramp up their level of intensity. I thought they’d play aggressive defense, something like a full-court press. Maybe they’d try to trap us and steal the ball away in order to make up some quick points. Those types of aggressive defenses are risky, but do have the potential to help teams catch up.
To my surprise, the Sharks just continued playing as if the score were tied, instead of us leading by 22 points. That was just fine with me–the lower the pressure, the better.
While I stayed on the floor for the next few minutes, both teams played about even, and I managed to throw a few good passes to help set up some of my team’s field goals. With twelve minutes left on the play clock, I was taken out of the game, along with the other reserves, in order to allow the starters to finish the game.
I watched the rest of the game from the bench as the Eagles coasted to victory against the Sharks. When the final buzzer had sounded, our team had won by a huge margin, 59-40, and everyone was smiling, even me. Winning has a certain magic to it that can lift downtrodden spirits, even mine. Moreover, the Eagles seemed really strong this year, and a big win like this was a good way to begin our season.
After we shook hands with the other team and wished them “good game”, Coach Jones called us back to the bench to give us some final words before sending us home.
“I’m really impressed with how you guys played today. Really good effort from beginning to end, Eagles. You moved the ball well on offense and played solid defense the whole game. Just a really great job all around. If we can keep this up, I think we’ll have a good shot at going far in the playoffs this year.”
Everyone smiled when Coach said that last line. Coach Jones’s conservative philosophy was always, “One game at a time,” so it was an exciting surprise to hear him predict a deep playoff run after the very first game of the season. Coach hadn’t finished speaking, though.
“And Gerald, wow. You really showed you earned the starting spot with your performance today. Great play on both sides of the ball. We’re so fortunate to have you on our team,” Coach continued.
Listening to Coach Jones had taken me on an emotional ride, from excitement to dejection. My disappointment during the earlier parts of the game had been balanced out by the playing time I had received in the second half, as well as the joy of seeing our team so thoroughly win. Coach had just given our team so much praise after a good game. But when singled out Gerald in such a complimentary way, it reminded me of what I had used to mean to our team, and how much things had changed.
I stared at the ground as I listened to Coach remind the team about our practice after school this coming Tuesday. It was still hard for me to swallow the thought that I was going to be a backup from now on.
I wasn’t ready to give up hope yet, though. If my father had taught me anything, it was that I was capable of anything. My next order of business would be to speak to my Dad to come up with a plan for earning my starting spot back.
Chapter 8 coming soon…