A San Antonio middle school football player grapples with his changing relationship with football in the face of fear and the consequences of concussion.
After a nasty hit, white wide receiver Clay Hollis starts to hold back, missing catches out of fear of getting hit. It’s embarrassing, and he doesn’t want to let down his best friend and quarterback, David Guerrero, or his white coach, who played with the 1990s-era Cowboys. The hit has him thinking about his mother’s research into concussions—she’s a football fanatic too, but she doesn’t want her son’s brain injured. Coach Coop himself took so many hits that he can be forgetful—and the episodes are happening more frequently. Clay teams up with team-manager Maddie, David’s football-guru younger sister, to get Coach Coop an iPhone, set up both reminders and the Waze app for when he gets lost, and help cover up his decline so he can have one last championship run with his team before being honored during the Thanksgiving Day Cowboys game. Racial descriptors show up mostly in naming conventions (David and his family are probably Latinx); Alamo hero-worship strikes a bit of an off note. While Clay’s fears seem sometimes to be handled too easily and the coach’s storyline grows repetitive, the play descriptions are top-notch, and the ending’s a poignant surprise.
Uneven plotting elevated by football nuance—on and off the field. (Fiction. 10-14)