SPIRIT WALKED OUT of his school’s locker room door, hung the whistle lanyard around his neck, and fondly perused his team as they threw passes back and forth to each other. The two eighth grade cousins, Five and Junior, were running around and tagging each other. Spirit yelled at his nephews, “Hey, you two bohunks, knock it off! Quit horsin’ ’round.”

Spirit looked over his team approvingly and thought, This is a talented bunch of yahoos. They’re strong, fast, savvy in the ways of football, and this could be our best season ever!

Spirit had truly built an admirable football program here at the tiny Sinkiuse High School. He had done it with hard work, dedication, and… with only a few boys, barely enough to field a team each year.

The Bobcats had four seniors, each one of them with special talents. Spirit knew that at least one would be playing college ball, possibly more than one. Coach Wolfe had kept in close touch with both Spirit and Billy throughout the years. The experienced college coach wanted the Bobcat center on his team. That promising prospect was Cloud CresentMoon. Cloud’s older brother was already playing for Coach Wolfe and the coach knew both boys had the right stuff to play for Central Washington University. They had been raised to withstand hardships with fortitude and determination. And they had been coached by one of the best, Spirit Sintasket.

Cloud was a unique player who had all the perfect characteristics to be an outstanding college level blocker. In all of Spirit’s years he had never seen anyone built like Cloud. The center stood only 5′ 8″, but weighed a hefty 330 pounds. He was not fat though. Cloud had always been thick, but he had been on a strenuous weight-training program for the past four years. From a distance Cloud appeared as wide as he was tall. He looked like a fire plug. His massive, muscular legs resembled tree stumps. Although the CresentMoon boy could not run fast, he had quickness off the line and the strength of a bull. Yes, he was the perfect blocker to anchor Spirit’s team.

“Hey coach, how about this year, you know what I want to do.”

“No, no, Cloud, I’m not going to let you run the ball. Why would I when we have the Skosum brothers?”

The brothers were quick, fast, and smart running backs. Sylix, the senior, was speedy, and he used his ability to find the seams in the defense. Sylix Skosum loved football and Spirit hoped Coach Wolfe would pick him up, maybe as a weak-side safety or a back-up running back. Sylix’s sophomore brother, Swift, was the fastest sprinter on the team, possibly the league. He, too, had already developed an uncanny ability to seek out the best holes to run through, and a busted play was often a welcome opportunity for Swift to gain the most yardage. Each kick-off and punt return provided the perfect occasion for Swift to showcase his skills. Spirit was confident that the Skosum brothers would be league leaders in his ground game.

The two remaining seniors included the tight end Tyee Tulameen and quarterback Larry Lillooet. Tyee, although lacking in speed, proved that he had enough quickness and savvy to get open for short yardage. He also had soft hands and last year Tulameen led the league in receptions. Spirit thought, If Tyee can get one finger on the ball, it’s an automatic reception!”

The Lillooet boy was almost perfect at the quarterback position. All the players respected him. Everyone waited silently in each huddle as they looked for Larry to make the right play call. Larry Lillooet had an accurate arm and standing at 6’4″ he could see over the defense and he could especially see over Cloud as Lillooet almost always stayed in the pocket, well protected by his savvy, loyal linemen.

Those other two linemen included the Junior guards, James Jim-James and Sam Squetimkin. Both boys were well-schooled at blocking and both were dependable. Rounding out Spirit’s starting lineup was Sophomore Mac Moses, a fast, sure-handed split end. The coach had only three substitutes, Freshman and first year player, Peanut Pakootas, and Spirit’s nephews Bull Peoples V and Chase, Jr. Spirit planned to rotate his rookies on defense to rest his starters. But with the low numbers, like every other season for the past twelve years, success would depend on the avoidance of injuries.

The time had finally arrived, the opening game of the season. That was a non-league game with a private, multi-tribal, boarding school in the Yakima Valley, Sahaptin Cultural. The boys and girls at Sahaptin were primarily tribal members from the Yakama, Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla. But there were also descendants from the Tenino, Klickitat, Kittitas, Wasco, Wishram, Wanapum, and Molalla; and there were even some kids with Nez Perce, and Palus ancestry.

Spirit felt this would be a difficult but winnable game, but his high hopes and positive assessment of the season were not unfounded. The Wenatchi World summarized the teams along with a forecast for the Scenicview League outcome. The sports writers predicted that Eureka would have the strongest team followed by Elk Cliffs, Sinkiuse, Arrow Lakes, and Loon Lake with Chief Moses and Pend Oreille Falls struggling through the season. This was a shot in the arm for Spirit and his charges, the first time the Bobcats were ranked in the top three and… the first time that prognosticators placed them ahead of the Archers.