by Charlie Stein,Great Neck, NYSince seventh grade, I have been a member of the Rebels football team. After two seasons on the sidelines and one hopeful false start of a season, I returned this year hoping to start. I played the first game, but only at the end since we were blown away. I was told I would start the next game - our home opener versus the Mepham Pirates.To say I was excited was an understatement. This was my chance to show what I had and maybe even earn a starting role. The next week of practice, I perfected everything. By Thursday, my throwing, pitches, hand-offs and footwork were perfect. There was nothing to obstruct my path to victory.Friday night I had dreams about the game and our team did everything right. I saw the touchdown pass that won the game. Saturday morning, I dressed, sat and mentally prepared myself. Coach walked out of his office and handed me a brand-new football. I put it under my arm. Victory was written all over it.We rumbled down to the field for our stretches and warm-up drills. At 9: 15 a.m., the referees called out the captains. The defensive unit started. I watched intently as the first play commenced. A pass. Our cornerback intercepted it! I was so used to not going onto the field that I forgot to go on. I jogged out, went into the huddle and gave an inspirational speech. "Yo, listen up. Let's go out and run all over them! It's our first official game and we are NOT going to be beaten on our home turf!" The play was run into the huddle. A 36 power dive on "sound." "Ready? Break!" The team ran up to the line; I took a deep breath, settled in and called the count. "DOWN!" The ball was snapped. I sprinted back and handed off to our tailback. We moved the ball a mere six yards. The drive went 4-and-out. It was a rough first set, but that was okay; I was still confident.On our next offensive set, I got to the line and took a moment to check out the defense staring at me. I just grinned. I called the count, turned and pitched the ball to the tailback. He busted toward the outside and ran 80 yards for the touchdown. I followed the play down field, fists pumping the air. After celebrating in the end zone, the coaches decided we would attempt a 2-point conversion. I underthrew the ball, but we were up 6-0.There wasn't much action at the start of the second half. We ran a pass play in the third quarter. I saw a player downfield and hurled the ball on the run. I was laid out by their defensive end and I heard cheers. I got up thinking I had completed the pass - but no, it had been intercepted. From the video replay (thanks, Dad), I saw that I had thrown the ball 30 yards right on target. My receiver had a step on the cornerback. The defender stopped, jumped and made an amazing catch. If the pass had gone through, it would have been a touchdown.In the fourth quarter, we started the most significant drive of the game at the 25-yard line. We marched down the field until we were at Mepham's 15-yard line. It was third and ten at the 15. The play was run-in: a fake 36 wing out; we needed a first down. I was immediately pressured and on the run; I threw the ball to the corner of the field. A receiver caught the ball and tiptoed into the end zone. The team mobbed together in celebration. The 2-point conversion had failed, but we were up 20-19. I ran back to the sideline and was praised with coach's smile and cheers from the crowd.We were up. There was no looking back. The clock ran down and we had won! I took off my helmet and raised it into the air. After shaking hands, we held a final team meeting where I was congratulated and cheered. It was amazing how much respect I received for the next few days.I had played pretty well that day and thought I had a legitimate chance to start the next game. Our starter, however, came and took his spot back. Benched again. There I've stayed. At the end of every game that the QB hadn't played his best, I am filled with anger. I feel I am good enough to make a difference. We'll see what happens the rest of this year. There is always the possibility our starter will have to go back to California! l
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.