INSTITUTE – When Daryl Hicks suits up for the South Cardinals on Saturday night in the annual WCHS-TV/FOX 11 North-South All-Star Football Classic, he will be playing for not only himself, but more importantly his older brother, David.
A year ago, David Hicks had been chosen for the annual contest that brings together 74 of the top high school football players in the state of West Virginia. Unfortunately in early May, Hicks was diagnosed with AVM (Arteriovenous malformation) - an abnormal connection between the veins and arteries. He had to have surgery and has had several procedures since.
The North-South game, and football in general, was suddenly out for the Ripley High School Class AAA First Team All-Stater and three-time state champion wrestler.
Hicks had been a mainstay of Viking football since his freshman season. He played in the backfield on offense and was a linebacker/end on defense during his career.
Game Director Bob Mullett made sure Hicks was a big part of the North-South game night a year ago. Hicks was introduced to the crowd and served as an honorary team captain. He was on the North sideline the entire evening.
Fast forward 12 months and his little brother will, in fact, be a participant in the game. It's quite the honor for Daryl, especially in light of the fate David was dealt a year ago.
"I'm excited," said Daryl, "it's what I worked for, especially with David's situation."
One obvious difference between David and Daryl when it comes to the North-South is the team they were chosen to play for in the Classic.
When Daryl Hicks pondered the possibility of getting chosen for the game, he just assumed it would be as a North Bear. Playing for the North would have meant one more opportunity to be in the blue and white.
Instead, come Saturday night when the two teams meet up at UC Stadium in Charleston, Hicks will find himself draped in a red jersey.
"When I got my letter saying I had been picked, it said for the South. I was like, 'Whoa,'" Hicks said laughing. "I didn't know Ripley was in the South until then."
Starting with the 1990 game, Ripley and Ravenswood had been a part of the blue-clad North after being the South's jurisdiction dating back to 1976 when the game was revived.
Hicks, Class AAA's 285-pound state wrestling champion this past February and the 2013 Ripley High School Male Athlete of the Year, figures to play along the defensive line on Saturday for the South Cardinals, who are being led by Midland Trail head coach Joe Dean. The two teams have been practicing and staying on the campus of West Virginia State University in Institute.
Hicks is doing all he can to make the most of this week of training camp and ultimately the game. That's because this will signal the end of his football playing days.
Page 2 of 2 - "It's a little difficult knowing it is your last game," he said. "I've been playing football a long time."
While his football days end on Saturday night with the game, he's far from done as an athlete. Hicks plans to attend Alderson-Broaddus University to wrestle for former Viking standout Mitch Smith. Going to A-B, where he will major in criminal justice, gives him the chance to again wear blue.
He knows come Saturday when the final seconds tick off the clock, emotions will run high.
"I'm glad I'm getting to play in this game," he said. "I always wanted to play in it. It gives you the chance to play one last game."
He's grateful for this final chance and to represent Ripley High for a final time in a football setting.
More than anything, he's excited about playing one more game to honor his older brother.