After dinner Paul and Joey are on the patio comparing uniforms. The muck fire is noticeable. Erik and Arthur are on the outside of the fence sliding around in the mud in Arthur's Land Cruiser. There is more difference between the uniforms than the colors. Joey’s is brand new. Paul’s has obviously been used by someone else.
Erik and Arthur come into the yard making rude remarks about Mike Costello and his brother, Joey. After Erik and Arthur go inside the house, Joey asks Paul what they meant. Paul tells him to forget about what the idiots said. But, Joey won’t drop it. So, Paul feels compelled to tell him that they were referring to the way Mike’s hair was burned by the lightning strike. And, they were talking about Joey trying to remove Mike’s shoes.
Joey feels like a coward because he did not stand up to Erik and Arthur. Paul reminds him that he does not stand up to them either. Joey is not surprised that they are making fun of him, but he is surprised that they are making fun of Mike.
Joey tells Paul the reason that he tried to take off Mike’s shoes. It was to make Mike more comfortable. Mike always felt more comfortable with his shoes off.
Paul has a solution. Joey can transfer to Tangerine Middle School. Joey says that it is too late to transfer. Paul thinks that Windsor Lake Middle School will do whatever Mr. Costello asks them to do. After questioning Paul about what the school is like, Joey says that he will consider it.
Today is the day that Tangerine Middle School plays Palmetto Middle School. After getting into their uniforms, the team boards a noisy old bus with no air-conditioning. The team coach is the driver. The trip takes about thirty minutes. When they reach the school, Victor leads the team once around the soccer field, then they meet the coach at midfield. Paul notices that the spectators, including the adults, are rude. So are the players.
Coach Bright revs up the team spirit by having the team shout “War Eagles.” Then, Victor starts to chant simply “War! War! War!” As the team shouts with him, any fear dissipates. The action on the field that follows does seem more like war than a game. The referee does not control the game. But, the Tangerine War Eagles are definitely the better team.
Before half time it starts to rain. The team spends half time on the bus with the coach and a bag of tangerines getting some good advice.
In the second half, after Tino is upended, Paul finds himself playing center forward in his place. When Paul misses an opportunity to score, Victor gets in his face. A second opportunity presents itself, but someone pulls Paul’s goggles away from his face and puts mud in his eyes. Paul attacks the fullback who did it. Later, Victor apologizes for getting in his face, compliments him on his attack on the fullback, and talks like Paul is really part of the team now. He tells Paul that the team is there to back him up if anyone messes with him.
Today, in the first game of their season, the Lake Windsor High School football team, the Seagulls, is playing a home game against the Cypress Bay High School football team, the Cardinals. Before the game starts there is already a problem. There are not enough places for the fans to sit. Cardinals fans start filling up the condemned bleachers. Mr. Bridges, the Lake Windsor High School principal, runs over to the condemned bleachers, but to no avail. A Tangerine Times photographer takes his picture.
Thirty minutes after start time, the game is still being delayed due to the bleacher situation. Then police cars arrive, along with a truck from Channel 2 News. As the police approach them, the Cypress Bay fans exit the bleachers. The game can start.
The game is slow. There is no score on either side until late in the third quarter, when a Cypress By fullback scores a touchdown. Then, they get the extra point.
Then, the skies open up and drench the field. Fans run for shelter in their cars. Dad and Paul stay near the field while Mom fears the worst for them.
Two minutes before the end of the game, Antoine Thomas scores a touchdown. It is time for Erik to make the extra point and tie the game. But, Arthur is not the holder. Antoine is. This is a surprise. As Erik starts to kick the football, Antoine takes it and runs. Antoine crosses the goal line. It is a two-point conversion. The Seagulls are now ahead. But, Erik, who did not know what was about to happen, kicked only air and landed in the mud. The game ends with the Cardinals fumbling away the last seconds.
When all the Fishers are back in the car, Dad explains to Mom that Erik helped win the game, although not in a way that people will remember. Paul mentally disagrees with Dad. The sight of Erik landing in the mud will become a memory that stays with people, he thinks.
At home Dad continues to emphasize the importance of Erik’s contribution as a decoy. However, Erik himself does not appear to be convinced.
The Fishers watch the news. At the end of the sports portion, where the station puts sports bloopers, they see Erik kicking at air and landing in the mud. The station makes a big joke of the piece. Erik’s parents tell him to just put it behind him, to forget about it. Paul knows that Erik will be making someone pay for his embarrassment somehow.
Today, the soccer game is against Kinnow Middle School. It is a home game for Tangerine Middle School. There are a lot of fans, including a man with Theresa and Luis Cruz who could be their father. There are no bleachers. Everyone who didn’t bring a chair stands. Joey is now on the team, but not a starter.
Victor opens a cut on his head that he got at the Palmetto game. Coach Bright has Tino’s father take Victor to get stitches even though Victor wants to stay in the game.
With a chant from Victor ringing in their ears, the remaining team starts the second half strongly. Tino and Maya both score goals. Then Paul, playing in Victor’s spot, scores. And, Maya scores again. Now that they are leading 7-3, more subs are sent in. The score remains 7-3.
Victor returns from the emergency room at the end of the game. Victor gives Paul a high-five.