This chapter fast forwards the reader to the beginning of the book and the loss to Midland Lee. The sobs have come to an end as Sharon Gaines goes into the field house with medication for her husband. The difference in the locker room after a win is so apparent now that they have lost to Midland. The place seems cursed and no loss could be worse than to lose by one point to the Rebels. Winchell prefers to leave in pointless conversation with someone rather than face anyone’s sympathy. Chavez leaves with a little smirk on his face as if he knows who is going to shoulder all the blame for the loss. Boobie Miles leaves the scene almost immediately, consumed with rage at having to sit on the bench in front of thousands. Ivory Christian, ambivalent as usual, shows no emotion at all. Now there might be only one game left in the season.
Sharon Gaines meets her husband in his office where she is reminded that his time spent coaching is unimaginable. He actually kisses his wife and children good-bye in August and almost literally does not see them again for four months. Now it all seems worthless. He is momentarily lost to her in his own world of shame and misery and defeat. Sitting in the stands every week is a nightmare for Sharon who must listen to the fans tear her husband apart and speak of the mistakes the boys make with unrelenting venom. They don’t understand that these are just children really, because they have too much emotion invested in Permian football to ever change. Now there is a three way tie for first place in the district, and she can’t imagine the outcome if Permian doesn’t make the play-offs. Coaches who “fail” in this may be there one day and gone the next. They may be viciously torn apart at public meetings. He may endure thousands of dollars in damage to his car or even face the fear of someone knocking on his door with a shotgun in his hand. Gaines has not beaten Midland Lee in three years and that is unforgivable. The town newspaper prints a letter to the editor that is the most personal attack of all and says that, “the downfall of mighty Mojo is going to be called Gary Gaines.”
Then comes the call for the A.G. to return. The initials stand for Almost God and refer to John Wilkins. He had had a very realistic view of his role as head coach of the Permian Panthers. His job was to win, because this was high school football in Odessa, Texas. So, his pursuit of s State Championship became a ruthless obsession, for he knew that anything less would not be enough. Unfortunately, whereas John Wilkins was called Darth Vader, Gary Gaines is dubbed Luke Skywalker.
This section of the book focuses on Jerrod McDougal. He, his father, and his younger brother, Jaxon, are going hunting. His conversation in the truck with the shotgun across his lap is all about how the Japanese are kicking their butts in the area of industry. It is a typical sign of how Jerrod looks at life: it’s not what he sees, but what he doesn’t see. That’s why taking the difficult plunge off the ramp of high school scares him to death. He says they have two things in Odessa – oil and football – and oil is all gone. So he gives everything he has for Permian football. He works himself beyond what he thinks is possible for the one great payoff: one season of unimaginable glory on Friday night where he is a prince, ogled, treasured, bathed in praise. That image always keeps him going. Beating the Rebels is the most important thing in his life so when they lose, it becomes the greatest disappointment of his life. His mother, Dale, feels the same way, and Friday nights become just as important to her. Now she blames Coach Gaines for the pain she and her son are feeling. She can’t look at Coach’s face and says that Jerrod may have lost the chance at a State Championship, but Coach Gaines may have lost a career. Now, Gaines’ ability to salvage the season depends on the toss of a coin – heads or tails.
The Civil War that is the title of this chapter is not just between Midland Lee and Permian High Schools, but also between the town and its coach. Gaines is the scapegoat for this loss and now he has only the luck of a coin toss to decide whether his team moves on and the town accepts him once again.