Dirt and sweat cling. The smell of destroyed grass and hot salty watery air encompass everything.
It’s fucking Gulf Coast Florida.
The offense breaks with a loud simultaneous clap of eleven pairs of hands.
The sixteen year old lines up as a defensive tackle. He lowers himself into a familiar four point stance. His knuckles press into the sandy ground . His muscles are taut and ready.
Just six month ago he was much bigger. From 220 he has shrunk down to 180. From a 275 pound bench press to he hasn’t even tried in over four months. If he thinks about it he can still feel the tingle of nerve damage racing down his left arm.
The quarterback, a boy who will be a senior this coming Fall yells, “set,” and with his left foot sends the wideout in motion.
The defensive tackle adjusts to a three point stance tucking his left arm up under his chest. It feels vunerable. He feels vunerable.
And he does. The guard and tackle gap splits for him like butter. His powerful legs driving hard into the dirt. He’s free of both blockers or they missed their assignment, neither matters because there is the ball carrier. A Costa Rican kid name Henry Diaz. He aims with his shoulders. Wraps and drives. The clash of plastic and helmet is loud. They both go down.
Five yard loss.
Henry stands and throws the ball against the defensive tackles helmet, angry.
The hit stung.
It felt good in that way pain can sometimes feel good.
With his ears ringing the tackle smiles.
Maybe a broken arm is something he can recover from after all.