Three Yards and a Plate of Mullet

Adam Gordon Sachs

If you’re a football fanatic, you might know the term “three yards and a cloud of dust,” where one team imposes its will and grinds down its opponent methodically and ruthlessly, one gut-punching play after another. In Drabenville, Florida, rookie sports reporter Jake Yankelovich learns that’s the philosophy of the hard-nosed, hard-driving Jimbo Bamford, scion of the community’s pre-eminent family and coach of perennial powerhouse Dolphin High School, only with his own twist: “Three Yards and a Plate of Mullet”—a dominating win followed by the best damn Friday night fish fry in town. That’s not the only thing Jake learns. On the precipice of a soul-crushing slog into the corporate world, sports fanatic Jake follows his passion to become a sportswriter in the mid-1980s, parachuting into a small-town Florida culture and a rabid high school football atmosphere to which he was oblivious. And when he uncovers a possible conspiracy connecting Drabenville community leaders and Coach Bamford that may have swayed a school redistricting decision that transferred some of the best players in the region to Dolphin High, he discovers just how much influence Bamford wields. Prodigal son Bamford had just returned to his high school alma mater, where he had established his legend as a state championship-winning player, to rebuild his reputation. On a seemingly pre-ordained march up the college coaching ranks, Bamford was shamefully knocked off course by a recruiting scandal. Dolphin High would be his salvation and lay the groundwork for his path back to his rightful place atop college coaching—and he wasn’t about to let a piss-ant, pesky, know-nothing reporter with elitist Yankee sensibilities get in his way. As Jake covers an intense season of high school football, he is blown away by the community’s football fever, bitter rivalries, incredible athletes, larger-than-life coaches and media obsession. But as the new guy in an alien, insular town, he’s also running up against the old-boy network that not only makes it difficult for him to get answers about potentially corrupt financial dealings and decision-making, but proves downright dangerous. Three Yards and a Plate of Mullet is a thoroughly entertaining, humorous, irreverent cross between Friday Night Lights and The Hangover. A sports drama combined with coming-of-age themes and (mis)adventures and a behind-the-scenes look at newsroom intrigue and what it’s like to be a local newspaper sports reporter on deadline, Three Yards and a Plate of Mullet takes the reader through a marathon football season in which the relationship between Jake and Coach Bamford, each striving to make their own names, becomes more and more contentious and threatens each other’s livelihoods. Abounding in 1980s nostalgia, Three Yards and a Plate of Mullet immerses the reader in the odd land of Florida, with all its natural beauty and manmade schlock, a lighthouse for all manner of transients, transplants and seekers, including the eccentric media characters and new buddies that Jake encounters along his journey. Three Yards and a Plate of Mullet does not shy away from exploring themes of race in a state with a history of segregation, as Jake’s adopted Drabenville and its cross-river rival town are places where there are clearly right and wrong sides of the tracks, and where wrongful accusations and stereotyping can occur, as two star Dolphin players experience. Told as only a former Florida high school sports reporter could tell, Three Yards and a Plate of Mullet transports readers to a time of feeling young, free and invigorated, when adventure beckoned, when all things felt possible, when new relationships and experiences could be found around every corner, and when sports—for those who developed the love in their youth—were still king.

Books by Adam Gordon Sachs