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       Full Impact, p.1

           Suzanne Weyn
 
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Full Impact


  Text copyright © 2013 by Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

  All rights reserved. International copyright secured. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., except for the inclusion of brief quotations in an acknowledged review.

  Darby Creek

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  Minneapolis, MN 55401 U.S.A.

  Website address: www.lernerbooks.com

  The images in this book are used with the permission of:

  © Thomas Barwick/Digital Vision/Getty Images, (main image) front cover; © iStockphoto.com/com/Jill Fromer, (banner background) front cover and throughout interior; © iStockphoto.com/Naphtalina, (brick wall background) front cover and throughout interior.

  Main text set in Janson Text LT Std 55 Roman 12/17.5

  Typeface provided by Adobe Systems

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Weyn, Suzanne.

  Full impact / by Suzanne Weyn.

  p. cm. — (Surviving Southside)

  ISBN: 978–1–4677–0311–6 (lib. bdg. : alk. paper)

  [1. Football—Fiction. 2. High schools—Fiction. 3. Schools—Fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7.W539Ful 2013

  [Fic]—dc23

  2012029523

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  1 – BP – 12/31/12

  eISBN: 978-1-4677-0967-5 (pdf)

  eISBN: 978-1-4677-2965-9 (ePub)

  eISBN: 978-1-4677-2966-6 (mobi)

  W

  ith the score tied and just minutes left on the clock, the Titans began running the ball downfield with a series of laterals.

  Fullback Arnie Johnson sprinted toward the end zone. Halfback Norval Lamb saw two Cougar tackles gaining on Arnie and hoped Arnie saw them too.

  Arnie pivoted when he noticed the Cougar players within a few feet of him, shifting from foot to foot in a lightning-quick dance.

  Will Arnie take the ball out of bounds? Norval wondered. Does he have enough time? Or will he get rid of it?

  As the Cougars pounced, Arnie released the football. It spiraled toward Norval. Without time to think, Norval leaped into the air, stretching to reach the ball.

  He had it!

  Ducking and zigzagging through the last line of Cougars, Norval had only one goal—to make it to the end zone.

  The Titan fans in the bleachers roared with excitement as Norval pulled off a forward roll and scored the winning touchdown for Southside High.

  Grinning widely, Norval pulled off his helmet. He danced a quick salsa step to show his delight. He knew the coaches would frown on too much gloating, but he couldn’t resist. It had been a tight game from the start—this win hadn’t come easily.

  The Southside crowd continued cheering as Norval and his teammates jogged off the field. Arnie came alongside Norval and landed a friendly slap on Norval’s back. “Good play, man!”

  “Thanks. You too.”

  “Nah. It was all you. It was a gamble, but I knew you’d make it.”

  “Those tackles took you down hard,” Norval said. “You okay?”

  “Dude, please,” Arnie replied, rubbing the back of his neck. “They knock me down, but I bounce back up.”

  When they reached the sidelines, their teammates gave them cheers, thumps, and hugs. The Southside cheerleaders sang a victory chant, leaping in the air and shaking their pom-poms.

  A girl with silky black hair and large dark eyes wrapped Arnie in a hug. “You were amazing, Arnie!” Lara Velez cried.

  Norval and Arnie exchanged smiling glances. Norval knew Arnie liked Lara, even though the guys all agreed she was a big flirt. “Thanks, Lara,” Arnie said. “But Norval’s the man today.”

  “Norval made the TD, but you’re the one who carried the ball most of the way,” Lara said.

  “That’s the truth!” Norval agreed. He raised his arm and high-fived Arnie.

  Norval looked around and found his girlfriend, Sadie Collins, chatting with some of the other cheerleaders. He wanted to be sure she didn’t think he was the one flirting with Lara. They had a good thing going—Norval didn’t want to mess it up.

  Sadie wasn’t paying attention, though. Then—almost as if she could feel his eyes on her—she turned toward him and smiled.

  Norval smiled back and waved.

  “You and Sadie are still going strong, I see,” Lara said.

  “A month last week,” Norval confirmed.

  “You two make a cute couple,” Lara said. “Poor Sadie. She didn’t have a boyfriend for so long. Boys just didn’t seem to notice her.”

  Norval rolled his eyes. The remark was pure Lara. “Well, she has one now.”

  “I’m happy for you guys,” Lara said and then turned her attention to Arnie. “See you at Kadeem’s for pizza. You’re going, aren’t you, Arnie?”

  “I’ll be there,” Arnie said.

  “Cool. I’ll see you later, then,” Lara said, flashing him her most flirtatious smile as she danced away.

  “Look out, man. Lara’s coming for you. She’s got you in her sights,” Norval teased.

  “I wouldn’t mind,” Arnie said, his eyes still on Lara.

  Kadeem Jones, Southside’s quarterback, stepped between Norval and Arnie and threw his arms over their shoulders. “Way to go!” he shouted. “My place for victory pizza!”

  “We heard,” Norval said. “We’re in.”

  Kadeem jerked his head toward the stands, indicating the cluster of middle-aged men still lingering in the bleachers. “Scouts.”

  Norval recognized a few of them: one scout from Miller College, another from State University, and another scout from nearby Wendell College.

  “You guys heard anything yet?” Kadeem asked.

  Norval shook his head. Kadeem had already been recruited to play college ball for the Peterson Pirates. “Nothing yet for me,” Arnie admitted. “Something better come through. A scholarship is the only way I’m going to college.”

  N

  orval squeezed his legs together to balance the paper plate holding his pizza. Kadeem’s parents had put out a great spread for the team. Norval couldn’t imagine how much the tower of pizzas on the table must have cost them. But they’d been right to order so much. This team could eat! Especially after a game like the one they had just played.

  Finishing his last bite of gyro pizza, Norval got up and headed back to the table for more. Lara was there with Maritza Rubio, another cheerleader. “Arnie was great today, wasn’t he?” Norval said.

  “I guess so. Whatever…” Lara grumbled. What had caused her enthusiasm to fade?

  “What’s going on?” Norval asked as he peeled another slice from the pie.

  “I don’t know. Go ask your buddy. When I tried to talk to him he just brushed me off.”

  “He’s acting weird,” Maritza added.

  When Norval went to find Arnie, someone said he’d just left.

  That’s odd, Norval thought. Arnie hadn’t even said goodbye. It wasn’t like him.

  He went and found Sadie. “Arnie just left all the sudden. Do you mind if I go try and find him? I’ll be back in time to walk you home.”

  “Sure, go ahead,” Sadie agreed. “Don’t worry about me. Paige’s mom is driving her home. I can get a ride with them.”

  Norval kissed her lightly. “Thanks. You’re the best.”

  Norval left the apartment and caught up with Arnie in the building’s main lobby. “Leaving so soon? What’s up?” he asked.

  “I don’t know,” Arnie said with a shrug. “All the noise in
there was getting on my nerves. Giving me a headache.”

  “Well, you managed to make Lara pretty mad. What went down?”

  “Nothing, really. I just wasn’t in the mood for her chatter. I guess she could tell.” Arnie pushed the front door open and headed down the sidewalk.

  Norval fell into step beside him. “I thought you liked Lara.”

  “I do. I think I’m just tired. And, like I said, I have this headache.”

  “Maybe you should text her later,” Norval suggested. “She’s obviously into you. At least, she was before you blew her off.”

  “I didn’t blow her off. She’s cute, man, but she’s trouble. Look how she’s making a big deal over nothing. We’re not even together yet.”

  “She’s a drama queen, sure,” Norval said. “But I thought you had a thing for her.”

  “I did. I do,” Arnie said.

  “Is something else bugging you?” Norval asked.

  “Maybe this scholarship thing is weighing on me. How come nobody came up to us today?”

  “I don’t know. But I didn’t see them approach anyone.”

  “It’s like I said—no athletic scholarship, no college.”

  “What about Southside CC?” Norval asked. “Could you swing that?”

  “Community college?” Arnie cried. “They don’t even have a football team! I’m not getting to the pros that way.”

  “I didn’t know you were thinking pro ball.”

  Arnie reeled around, glaring. “What? Think I don’t have what it takes?”

  “Whoa, man!” Norval raised two hands to back Arnie up. “Don’t take it like that. I just didn’t know you had that in mind. I’m not sure I want to play pro. I haven’t thought that far ahead. Right now I’m just hoping for a free ride through school to play some college ball.”

  “Not me. Ever since I played peewee touch football, going pro’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

  Norval remembered Arnie as a little kid in their peewee football days. Arnie would complain that it was touch football and not tackle. He couldn’t wait to really mix it up with the other team. And that’s exactly what he did once they got to middle school.

  No one was more fearless than Arnie. Some of the kids took to calling him Bouncing Arnie Johnson because he seemed to bounce back after every tackle. It wasn’t surprising that Arnie wanted to play pro ball, once Norval thought about it. Football was what he lived for.

  “Sorry for yelling at you, man,” Arnie said, walking again. “I’ve just been cranky ever since the game ended.”

  “You seemed okay right after it,” Norval pointed out. “Did something happen?”

  “It’s my head. It started pounding once I got to the party.”

  “Should you get it checked out?” Norval asked.

  “It’ll stop. The same thing happened after the last game. But it went away in a couple of hours.”

  They came to Arnie’s apartment building, which was just a few buildings down from Norval’s place. With a quick fist bump, Arnie headed up the front steps. “Later,” he said as he pulled open the front door.

  “Take something for your head. Get some sleep,” Norval said from the sidewalk. “Call Lara.”

  “Sure, sure,” Arnie replied. Flashing Norval a grin, he went inside.

  As Norval walked toward his family’s own apartment, he put Arnie out of his mind. A headache could make anyone cranky.

  T

  he Titans’ next big game was two weeks later, against Northside High. Norval joined his teammates at the thirty-yard line and got ready for kickoff.

  Arnie looked distracted, like he was searching the bleachers. Following Arnie’s gaze, Norval noticed scouts in the stands. He recognized the scouts from Wendell College and State U again. Then he spotted two more. One was from Croft College and the other from Phillips University.

  Arnie turned to Norval and jerked his head toward the scouts. Norval nodded, then started trying to block the scouts from his mind. He needed to focus on the game. Hopefully Arnie would do the same.

  Kadeem got into position and began calling plays. When he received the snap from the center, he quickly handed the ball off to Norval.

  Norval raced forward for five yards while Arnie ran interference against the Northside defensive end. With his head down, Norval barreled his way for another yard, confident that Arnie would block the defender. In the next second, though, Norval noticed two more Northside players coming at him from a different direction. Too fast—he couldn’t outrun them. He had to get rid of the ball.

  Is Arnie open, or is that defensive end still on him? Norval wondered.

  No. Arnie was clear! The defensive end was heading toward Norval.

  Pivoting, Norval lateralled the ball to Arnie. Before Arnie could catch it, the Northside defensive end turned back and slammed into him. The two players who’d been threatening Norval also changed course and piled onto Arnie.

  The whistle blew.

  Norval watched as the Northside defense got to their feet. Arnie lay on the ground, still.

  Assistant Coach Green hurried out onto the field and knelt beside Arnie. Norval was relieved to see Arnie get up onto his elbows. At least he was conscious.

  Head Coach Gannon called for a time-out as the medics came onto the field. Arnie lifted up his helmet to speak to them.

  Even though Norval couldn’t hear what was being said, he had the feeling that Arnie was telling them he was okay. To prove the point, Arnie rose to his feet—then staggered back.

  Coach Green steadied him. After more talk, the medics left the field and Arnie walked slowly off to the sideline with the two coaches on either side of him.

  N

  orval joined his other teammates as they crowded around Arnie on the bench. “I’m good. Really!” Arnie said. “My helmet got creamed, but I’m okay.”

  Arnie smiled and pointed to a crack that ran all the way up the side of the helmet. “That could’ve been my head!” He twirled it on his hand. “Anybody have a spare? This one isn’t going to do me much good for the rest of the game.”

  “Forget it, Arnie,” Coach Green told him. “You’re sitting the rest of this game out.”

  Arnie leaped to his feet, protesting. “Come on, Coach! I want to play. I told you, I’m perfectly fine!”

  “Maybe I’ll put you in for fourth quarter,” Coach Green said. “Rest up for now, and we’ll see how you’re doing by then.”

  “Aw, come on!” Arnie said. “I’m good to play now. Honest!”

  Norval knew Arnie was thinking of the scouts in the stands.

  “No way, Johnson,” Coach Gannon said. “Calm down, or you’re benched for longer than this game.”

  “You can’t do this to me, Coach!” Arnie cried.

  Coach Green shot Arnie a warning look. “Last time I’m saying it. Sit down.”

  Arnie muttered something under his breath as he slumped back onto the bench.

  Arnie is really pushing his luck with all that arguing, Norval thought. Fortunately, the coaches didn’t seem to have heard him.

  “Don’t sweat it, Arnie,” Norval said. “The scouts will be back. It doesn’t reflect on you. Even the pros get pulled out when they’re injured.”

  “Yeah, well, they already have contracts,” Arnie grumbled.

  “Come on, man. The scouts know how it is.”

  “Yeah? How is it? They see me get pulled and they say, ‘This guy can’t take a hit. He doesn’t have the stuff.’”

  “It’s not like that,” Norval said.

  The rest of the game was close. This time, though, there was no thrilling final touchdown. The Titans lost.

  After the game, Norval met back up with Arnie, who was talking to Lara and Maritza by the bleachers. “How you feelin’?” he asked.

  “Completely fine,” Arnie said. “Wonderful! Not a scratch on me.”

  “And your head? Any headache this time?”

  Arnie tapped his head. “I’m having some trouble telling the voices apart.”


  “What?” Norval asked.

  “I’m playing with you, man,” Arnie confessed with a laugh. “I’m totally okay. Coach was crazy to pull me out of that game. I was so down to play.”

  “It was really dumb,” Lara added. “If Green had played him, you guys would have won for sure.”

  “I don’t know about that,” Arnie said, trying to sound modest.

  Norval was glad to see that Arnie had straightened things out with Lara. “Maybe so,” he said. “Still, it’s better to be safe.”

  Arnie scoffed. “It’s better to win!”

  “I don’t know about that,” Norval said.

  “What? You think we didn’t win ’cause I let the team down?” Arnie snapped.

  “I never said that!” Norval said.

  “Sounded like it,” Arnie mumbled.

  “No way.” Norval slapped Arnie’s back. “Anyways, I’m glad you’re okay.”

  As Norval spoke, he thought he saw Arnie wince. “You really okay?” he asked.

  “Don’t be such an old lady,” Arnie said, smiling once more. “I told you. I’m great.”

  N

  orval was standing at his locker the next day when he saw Coach Green coming toward him. “Would you come see me in my office sometime today, Norval?” Coach asked.

  “Sure. I have a study hall third period,” Norval replied, growing worried.

  “Don’t look so nervous,” Coach Green said with a smile. “I just want to talk to you about something. Not a big deal.”

  “Okay. I’ll see you later.”

  Despite the reassurance from Coach Green, Norval couldn’t stop wondering what the meeting would be about. Southside had lost its last game. Maybe Coach felt Norval hadn’t played his best. Would he want Norval to put in extra practice time? Could one of his teachers have complained about his grades? He hadn’t done well on his last chemistry test. But they wouldn’t pull him from the team for that, right?

  On the way to the coach’s office he passed Arnie in the hall. “Do you have any idea why Coach Green would want to talk to me today?” Norval asked.

  “Maybe one of the college scouts contacted him about you,” Arnie said. “It’s possible.”

 
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