The night before the fourth game of the season, Coach Gaines calls a private meeting for the team and coaching staff only, a sign that the idea of defeat is not only unthinkable, but intolerable. He tells his player the story of Sam Davis, a Confederate scout during the Civil War. After he is captured by the enemy, he is told he will go free if he reveals the name of the one who had given him his information. Davis refuses, saying, “I would die a thousand deaths before I would betray friend.” The reaction of the team is not the usual hue and cry, but instead a strangely vulnerable look on their faces. Coach emphasizes the ideas of friendship and loyalty to encourage them in such a vulnerable moment against their cross-town rivals, Odessa High School. The Permian fans are also feeling vulnerable before the game begins, many standing with arms folded waiting for the flawless performance to break their cold impassivity. The opening kick-off is stuffed by Odessa High and the team and the fans wonder if it’s an omen or whether it means nothing at all. It becomes a clash of values – the nouveau riche of the west side and Odessa High against the older, more humble values of the west side of Permian High School. Odessa has not won for 23 years, and they’re hungry. However, every time it seems like they’re close, a miracle happens for Permian like a fumble into the end zone.
There was a time when Odessa High School was the white school in town, and they won a state title in 1946. That moment of glory had never been repeated and the greatest desire from this school now is to beat Permian, which was established in 1964 and dominated the rivalry ever since. The old-line supporters of Odessa High School believe it has become a dumping ground for Hispanics, and everyone knows that Hispanics cannot play football. It creates a strong sense of inferiority within the Odessa student body and they have to be soothed by the principal and the teachers everytime Permian wins. What is even worse, Permian recruits players from the Odessa district to move into their side of town and play for the Panthers with no regrets whatsoever. This only fuels Odessa’s desire to win.
Permian reduces the game that night to science. The individuality of the players disappears as they become a machine of perfect football engineering. Odessa High falls apart while Permian scores on a nine play, 71 yard drive. Odessa can only move the ball for minus two yards. Permian then scores again on a two plays and a 40 yard run by Billingsley. Don has acute asthma and feels as if he shouldn’t play the second half. However, Trapper thinks he isn’t sick at all and humiliates the boy by calling him a “pussy.” It’s enough to make Billingsley willing to play. In the second half, Odessa receives the ball and punts after gaining only five yards. The machine the moves the ball 38 yards in six plays and scores on a TD pass from Winchell. At the end of the third quarter, Permian is ahead 35-0 and Gaines begins to substitute liberally, because he doesn’t believe in running up the score. Odessa High can only dance to the music of their band after one TD and the game ends 35-7. For Odessa High, it seems like time to throw in the towel. If they can’t beat Permian, maybe they should join them. It is suggested by political officials on their side of town to consolidate the two schools and their two football teams. However, the Good Ole Boy Network on the school board is too strong for single members like Vicke Gomez, who is the only one to vote for the resolution.
The aura that surrounds Permian High School and the people who support the school controls a defeatist atmosphere in the town between the East and West sides. Odessa students feel inferior to Permian and Permian is just tried of their so-called whining. The dynamics in one town are unbelievable, and they all surround the charisma of football.