THE NEXT CONTEST for Spirit and his Bobcats was slated with the Idaho team in Sawtooth County. Spirit had not played this team, the Grand Forks Falcons, in a long time. He was confident, but Spirit remembered from years earlier than they were tough at home. The mood was upbeat all week; However, Spirit continued to work his team strenuously.
Finally, Friday arrived and the boys boarded the bus at noon. This was another long trip but almost two hours shorter than the first outing of the season. The team headed to Spokane, south on Highway 195 and then they wound through dozens of rolling Palouse hills as they took several paved backroads to get to Highway 95 and south to their opponent. This was a pastoral setting of alfalfa pastures and freshly plowed wheat fields interspersed with gently sloping hills framed by the majestic Sawtooth Mountains.
For the coin flip, Larry called heads. It was headed and the Bobcat captain elected to receive. At first, it was a slow march up the field as the defense keyed in on the talented Skosum running backs. Larry finally hit Mac with a long pass downfield and the Moses boy gave the safety his right hip, took it away, spun left, and went 50 yards for the touchdown. But out of the corner of his eye, Spirit spotted a late flag on the field – holding! Spirit stared at his linemen as they held their palms up and shrugged shoulders. Spirit asked the referee, “Who committed the holding?
The man in stripes answered, “Number 63.”
Spirit looked around, did a double-take, and responded, “The Falcons have a number 63, but we don’t. Who did the holding?” But the referee ignored Spirit, ran to the opposite side of the field, and exchanged positions with the far sideline judge who marked off ten negative yards from scrimmage and the down was repeated.
Larry was frustrated because he was certain that nobody violated the holding rule. He called the same play but the Falcons were ready for it. The defense intercepted the pass and ran the fifty yards back for a touchdown. The game continued like that. Usually, when the Bobcats got long yardage a flag was thrown. The deepest frustration for Spirit and his team – numerous violations by the Falcons, but only an occasional call went against the home team. Coach Sintasket dearly wanted to scream at the Idaho referees but stopped himself. More than anything, he wanted to teach the boys good sportsmanship. As Spirit was struck with a hard headache accompanied by a narrow tunnel of his vision and flashing stars like the snow on a TV screen without reception, he momentarily thought, that ref’s face looks a lot like a vicious animal.
The game continued like that with only an occasional touchdown from either team. Larry complained to the backfield judge, “They’re holding, taking cheap shots, and grabbing our face masks.”
The ref responded, “You’re a big boy, play ball.”
Larry called a deep pass on the next play. He stayed in the pocket but a defender broke through and illegally hit Larry at the knees. As Larry went down hard with a yell, no flag was thrown. He had to be helped up and could not put weight on his left foot. Spirit called a timeout and put Chase-In-Winter, Jr. in at the quarterback position. Abel applied ice to Larry’s leg and tried to reassure the boy that everything would be okay.
With only a minute left and down by six points, Chase handed the ball to Swift. The hole closed before him, a broken play, and Swift sprinted towards the Bobcat bench, turned the corner upfield, and then up the sideline, to the thirty, twenty, ten. He was pushed out of bounds … and then a late hit while on the ground … a hard hit by one of the smallest Falcons, a helmet to the back. The offender popped up quickly and there was no flag. Swift could not get up. The game was stopped until he could be helped further off the sideline. An EMT looked at Swift and suggested he be taken to the hospital. Abel and Swift’s dad piled ice packs on the boy’s back. After 30 seconds of play the game ended. The home team won 30-24. Mr. Skosum and Sylix helped Swift to the truck and they headed north on Highway 95 to the Kootenai County Hospital in Coeur d’Alene. Larry was helped by Mr. Lillooet to his truck and they followed the Skosums north.
There was a long wait in the emergency room. But by one o’clock in the morning, it was determined that Larry had a sprained knee, and Swift had swelling around the lower spine and a bruised back muscle. The on-call-physician recommended no football for three to five days depending on conditions. For both boys, she recommended ice, on-and-off every twenty minutes for the next 24 hours and a couple of ibuprofen every six hours for three days. She also gave each boy two hydrocodone and a prescription for twenty more as needed for pain. On Saturday afternoon both fathers informed Spirit of their sons’ dispositions. Mr. Lillooet saved four of the opiate pills for Larry’s pain and threw the rest in the fire. He was well aware that an epidemic of addiction was on the rise. Spirit was concerned but relieved that his players were not in too serious a condition. He thought It could’ve been much worse.