But the game must soon be started. The signal practice changes a bit and each side passes the ball to its chosen kicker, to allow him a final test of his ability. The captains toss the coin for the choice of goals and the visitors win. The whistle of the referee calls the teams into position and the contest is on.
From now on till this game is finished, each of the twenty-two young men out there will have but one ambition - the transportation of the ball across the enemy's goal line. The objective point of our own team is the final white line over there to the left, while the enemy's eleven will strive in the opposite direction. Each man on each team will have a part to perform, whether it be the carrying of the ball himself or assisting his comrades, and unless each man does that part his team will fail in its attempts. There is one main way in which the ball is legally advanced. This is in the arms of a runner. Passed from hand to hand it may be, and each scrimmage necessarily starts that way, but the passes must never be made in the direction of the opponents' goal. As a last resort the ball may be kicked forward but this, as a rule, only when progress by the regular plan seems impossible. In but two other ways can points be scored: One when a team is able to propel the ball by drop-kicks or by a kick from placement above that bar at the center of the goal line and between the posts which form a capital H at each end; the other method being when one side voluntarily touches the ball down behind its own goal. This is termed a safety and counts two points for the opponents. It is but rarely seen, however, in the big games.
Franklin FIELD, Pennsylyania - Army vs. Navy.
Squarely in front of us forms our team, stretching across the field along the 55-yard line which marks the middle. In the exact center the ball is carefully stood on end, ready for the kick-off, which is the method of putting it in play. Defending the west goal the visiting team, which has won the choice of positions, is so disposed in scattered array over the half of the field that the kick which is coming, regardless of its direction, may fall into the ready arms of some waiting player.
Once more the referee's whistle blows. In front of us the line charges forward and in its middle the kicker meets the ball with the swing of his foot and sends it high in air, straight for the enemy's goal posts.
The full back of the visiting team stands under the goal, arms outstretched. A half-dozen of the others form in front of him. He catches the ball and sprints up the field in the middle of that solid phalanx, running it back. For 15 yards the formation pursues an uninterrupted course. Then one of our tackles plunges low into the interference, the first obstacle which it has met. He is trampled under foot, but another man follows, and then four or five more. The phalanx is broken, but out behind circles the runner, now relying on his own efforts to make the gain longer. From the side darts in one of our ends, launching himself at the runner's knees. The man with the ball tries to dodge but it is too late. Down they go together. The play is stopped.
The referee's whistle blows again and the visitors line up with the ball in their possession. The name of the tackier is cheered from ten thousand throats.
The teams are now playing on the 25-yard line of the visitors. To score against us, the ball must be carried to the opposite end of the field, across the goal line of the home eleven, or else cleverly kicked by drop or placement, between our goal posts. It is a long distance to be gained but there is plenty of time to accomplish the feat if the enemy's eleven has the grit and power to do it.
Watch the referee. He is the official who has charge of the ball and who, assisted by the linesmen who do the measuring, decides whether it has been legally advanced or not and how far. On the opposite end of the line is the umpire. He is the one who notes the actions of the men in each play, guarding against any infraction of the rules which prescribe in detail the lawful ways in which each of these young giants may use his strength, for the play must be clean and the interpretation of the rules is always strict.
You will now see the use of the chalk lines which, five yards apart, cross the entire field. The visitors have no right to maintain possession of the ball if in three trials they fail to carry it at least the five yards intervening between two of these lines. Failing to do this, they will afford our young heroes their opportunity.
Only less important are the lines which divide the field longitudinally. Also five yards apart, these lines assist the officials in limiting the play to strict observance of the rule which makes it obligatory for runners receiving the ball on direct pass from the center to circle at least five yards before progressing toward the opponents' goal.
Note the way the men line up for the scrimmage, the visitors in offensive array - for they have the ball - our men on defense, the line of battle being in each case the one which, with a few variations, has proven the best in the judgment of the men who have made the game a life study.
The centers, as their names imply, are the center men of each line. On either side of them are the guards and outside these, the tackles. The men on the extremities of each line are, quite logically, the ends. The side with the ball, you will note, however, has drawn its ends close in to the general formation, while ours are ranging wide. The men playing the positions mentioned comprise what is technically known as the line, differentiating them from the other four members of the eleven, who are termed backs. The quarter back is the man immediately behind the center. On offense, when his side is carrying the ball, he calls the signals. which tell the players of a team, in a language which they alone understand, the play to be employed, the man who will carry the ball and the direction in which he is to carry it. The quarter, when ready, takes the ball from his center, who passes it back between his legs, and, in turn, passes it on again, always backward - for a forward pass is illegal - to the back who is selected to carry it into the enemy's country. The rest assist the runner in the manner in which they have been taught. Frequently in the progress of a game a member of the line is called back to relieve the backs in carrying the ball and their linesmen block opponents out of their way on offense, while the defensive line endeavors to stop the play. On the defense, half backs take the places ours have now - back of the tackles to assist the ends, for this is a frequent point of attack. The full back of the attacking side stands directly behind the quarter, with the halves on either side of him, while our full back is 30 yards or so behind his own line, waiting for a possible punt and acting as a final line of defense, should the opposing runner succeed in carrying the ball past the rest of his comrades.
The location of the ball forms an imaginary line between the teams, across which no player may charge till the oval is snapped by the center.