Coach Slaughter left for Lufkin after the young man’s freshman year. He was replaced by Gary Davenport who was making the jump from 3A to 5A and who brought with him the old school wing-T offense. His hiring had been opposed by major boosters, and the players had all voted to have Coach Powers, Slaughter’s former linebackers coach, as the head coach.
They were now midway into Davenport’s first season, and the team had already lost more games in a season than Slaughter had lost in the last three years. Death threats were regularly called to Davenport’s house, and For Sale signs showed up on his lawn and on the lawns of his assistant coaches.
Practices were long and harsh. MIAA rules said a team could practice no more than two hours per day. Coach Davenport had a team manager keep a stopwatch and a notepad. When they ran a drill or play, the watch started. When it stopped and the coaches instructed, the watch stopped. Hence, two-hour practices took four hours and continued under lights.
The JV is the scout team for the varsity, constantly lining up to show the varsity the expected look and plays of the opposing team that week. It is brutal, gritty work for the JV, constantly matched up against older, faster, stronger players. The young man is the starting free safety for the jv. At wingback is Jesse Greenwood. Jesse is the younger brother of UCLA football star Carl Greenwood, who would go on to play for the Jets. The word on Jesse is that he is a better pure athlete than his brother, but does not have the same love for the game. The coaches are down on him.
On this gray evening, as the sun is dipping and before the lights are on, the varsity is running Strong Right 122–a trap play to the wing back. The young man sets the defense, hears the cadence, sees the snap, and then sees his puny jv defense open like a chasm in front of him. And coming through that chasm is Jesse–all 6’2″, 195 lbs at him. The young man probably isn’t 150 lbs. The young man sprints at Greenwood, lowers his head, and feels his head explode at the collision. Snot blows up to the top of his helmet, and his helmet rocks back, then jams down over his eyes. He sees pinpricks of light flashing across his vision, and he signals to his backup, while trying to reset his helmet and wipe the snot out of his hair.
“Goddammit, Mahaffey!” Davenport screams. “Do you ever block the right guy? Are you telling me that you can’t get EJ McNamara out of the hole? Run it again!”
The young man cringes when he hears it. If the varsity blocked it wrong, and he was still left one on one with Greenwood, it would be worse this time. His backup appears, but he waves him off.
They run it again. Again, the chasm opens, and again, Jesse comes like a freight train. Again, they crack heads, and again, the young man winds up in the dirt with snot in his hair and his helmet over his eyes. He waves to his backup again, and this time he is going to walk off.
As he does, he looks up to see Coach Powers, hands on his hips. Powers points at him with his right index finger and bellows, “Gordon Laws, you’re easy!” He slinks back to the defensive huddle.