We head to the field, thoughts tumbling through my head. After we won the national championship, the entire team was on cloud nine, but that talk faded as the fans and media started talking about ‘next year’.
At first everything online was positive about me becoming the next quarterback at Waylon, but the mood changed on national signing day in February when the number-one recruit in the country, Sinclair, picked Waylon over Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Alabama.
“Drill stations. Let’s see what you boys have today.” He announces a full situational scrimmage, first team offense versus first team defense with Owen and me switching out after each play.
“McQueen, you’re first up,” Alvarez calls. “Opening drive, first and ten.”
After looking over the defense, I identify they’re in zone coverage with a straight four-man pass rush. “Hike!” I rumble.
The team goes into motion, the defense dropping into a three-deep zone exactly like I expected. My line picks up the pass rush, and I throw to the tight end for an easy eight-yard gain on first down.
“Nice read. Sinclair, your turn,” calls Alvarez while I jog to the sideline, victory thrumming through my veins.
“Hut!” Sinclair yells. The tight end runs a slant and is wide open in front for an easy ten yards—and Sinclair hits him in stride. He breaks the tackle and turns up the field for another fifteen yards before the safety can make it over to bring him down. A muscle pops in my jaw.
“Two minutes to go in the quarter. Down by five. First and ten from the twenty,” Alvarez calls out from the sideline.
“Hike!” I growl.
Palming the ball, I study the blitz coming from both sides. I throw a perfect pass down the sideline to Sawyer. He catches it and heads to the endzone. Score.
I pass Sinclair on my way off the field. “Beat that, rookie.”
He huffs and gets into the huddle at the twenty yard-line. Right away, I see the blitz coming as an overload on his right side. He’ll need to keep the tight end in play to block and dump the ball off to his running back. It won’t pick up a lot of yards, but it might move the ball downfield.
The play starts and the blitz surprises him. Sinclair falters but spins at the last second and runs toward the sideline, looking for an open player. He waves his hand at Sawyer, who breaks off his slant route just as Sinclair throws the ball, a wobbly spiral that hits Sawyer around sixty yards. He walks into the end zone for a touchdown. The freshman players run out and smack Sinclair on the helmet.
My teeth grit. Yeah, it was pretty, but…
“What the hell was that?” snaps Alvarez as he stomps out to the field and gets in Sinclair’s face. “That little spin worked this time, but it’ll get you sacked and probably a fumble. That shit might have flown in high school, but you aren’t the best athlete on the field anymore.” Coach turns to the defense. “And you just let some fresh-as-a-daisy kid beat you deep on what would have been a game-winning play. You have to contain…”
He continues to yell at the defense as I swagger over to Sinclair. “You know what he’s looking for? Experience. This is real football, not a one-man show.”
He bumps me with his shoulder and stalks to the sideline.
Walking into the locker room after practice, Alvarez motions for me to come to his office. Sinclair is already there, hovering in the background.
Coach scans his eyes over us, and I think I see a glimmer of uncertainty there. He crosses his arms, determination on his face.
My heart pounds in my chest, but I keep my face cool.
Sinclair sends me dark looks, his fists clenching and unclenching.
“You both did fine today.”
“I’ll be announcing Dillon as the starter this afternoon at a press conference.”
Yes! Elation rushes over me as the weight of summer camp eases.
Sinclair exhales a breath and looks at the floor.
Coach’s eyes narrow as he takes us in. “It’s no secret you two are at odds, and I get it. You both have different styles. McQueen, you’re steady and balanced. Sinclair, you’re talented but have a lot to learn. McQueen, I want you to spend some personal time with Sinclair—”
“Sir?” I interrupt. “What do you mean?”
Coach’s lips flatten. “You claim you want to lead this team, so do it. You’re the captain, and that means welcoming the new talent and teaching him what you know. I’m assigning you two to run together every day—on your own time. It would be good if you spent more time together as well. Eat together, hang out, whatever you boys do.”
My personal time? I shoot a glance at Sinclair, and he curls his lips at me.
Coach looks down at the mess of papers on his desk. “Sinclair, you may go.”