The determined ball players followed their mentors, Adanvdo Alsgida and Awiequa Utana, into the village single file. Upon seeing them entering, the throngs of people cheered loudly and excitedly and rushed toward them to greet them and extol upon them their support.
From the guard station above the entrance, the sentinel announced the arrival of the opposing team. Chaos ensued as the crowd rushed to the sidelines to claim their favorite viewing spots.
The opposing village Uku led his team into the village and across the field as their neighbors from their village streamed in to search for their own places to view the game. Almost frenzied wagering broke out between the rival villagers as the two teams met in the center of the field.
Adanvdo and their Uku greeted each other cordially and then directed their players to line up facing each other. The opposing team had brought ten players and would, therefore, sit three to make the contest even at seven apiece.
The Tsikohi players had been told the other players were large, but they were larger in person than their imaginations had constructed. Big Elk marveled at the difference in size between the two teams. The Tsikohi team looked like children beside the huge players.
With the teams established, the visiting team’s chief presented a small basket of balls for the game to Chief Waya Gigage. As was the custom, Chief Waya inspected the balls and then proclaimed them acceptable.
Adanvdo and the Uku led their players to opposite sides of the field for last minute instructions. Adanvdo was relieved to find the seven men he had requested for counselors standing along the sideline. They huddled with the team as Adanvdo gave his players their last piece of advice.
“If we use our feet and our heads, we will win today. If we engage them in a power struggle, we will lose. Remember our strategies. Remember to always hit them low. Out run them; out maneuver them; outsmart them; surprise them.”
Adanvdo could read the conviction in their eyes and their posture. It was time to stop talking. It was time to play ball. Adanvdo handed each player a root to chew on to keep their blood flowing and the mind keen.
“Ho!” Adanvdo barked as he stabbed the symbolic staff into the ground.
“Ho, ho!” The players barked back followed by a high pitched trill similar to a turkey call and then rushed out onto the field.
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