Offsides

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Published in fall 2004 by Houghton Mifflin/Walter Lorraine Books

Offsides

To Coach Dempsey, the Warriors team and their Indian mascot symbolize the honor and glory of the Southwind High School athletic tradition. But soccer star Tom Gray sees little more than a denigrating cultural stereotype in the team’s moniker and the stern, war-painted Indian-head profile. As a Mohawk, Tom knows only too well the hardships Native Americans face in their struggle for respect. So when his father’s tragic death forces him and his mother to move to Southwind, Tom must make the decision of a lifetime: betray his family and heritage, or boycott Dempsey’s team and abandon the sport he loves.

Excerpt from a Southwind Sentinel interview with Tom Gray:

“Soccer may look more like checkers, but it’s really more like chess. While you’re always trying to move the ball forward, you’re also scoping out empty spaces, real estate your opponents might want to fight over. These skirmishes create other spaces — forward and backward and in all directions — all of them leading to a good spot for knocking on the king’s door.”

Meet Tom Gray, former center striker for the Tin River Ravens. Remember that spectacular scissors-kick goal in the final minutes of the Ravens’ semifinal victory over the Burnsfield High Badgers? That was Tom Gray.

Meet Coach Dempsey, Southwind High School athletic director and proud leader of the regional champion Warriors. For more than two decades he’s been building a winning tradition. But the toughest contest of his career could take place off the field as a transfer student — a hotshot from Tin River by the name of Tom Gray — challenges the way they play at Southwind.

In Offsides, fast-paced soccer action brings a star player head-to-head with a stubborn coach, a community embroiled in political controversy, and a decision that redefines one young man’s sense of himself — and what’s worth fighting for.

Acknowledgments:

Author Erik E. Esckilsen thanks five Mohawk teenagers, students at Massena Central High School in upstate New York, for their extremely valuable contributions to Offsides:

Kristen Caldwell — Mohawk name, Katsitsienienh´:tha
Spencer Jacobs — Tehoriho´:rens
Joanna Jock — Karakwinon
Sandra Smoke — Kanyenthah
Kanentahawi Delisle Thompson

Thanks also to Kathleen Dodge, Massena Central High School teacher, and Tom French, a teacher at Massena’s J. W. Leary Junior High School, for encouraging the above students to get involved in this project. West Coast teen super-reader Alana Miller also shared useful feedback in the early stages of this project.