CHARLESTON – If Saturday night’s WCHS-TV/FOX 11 North-South All-Star Football Classic was indeed the last game for Ripley High School graduate Daryl Hicks, then it was certainly one to remember.
Hicks truly stood out as one of the game’s defensive stars. He played a huge role at Charleston’s UC Stadium in helping his South team defeat the North, 43-14.
Defensively, Hicks was the South’s top tackler from his nose guard position with seven stops. Two of his tackles were for losses, including a sack.
Hicks played like a man possessed.
“I was so excited. I’m glad to come out here with West Virginia’s best athletes,” said Hicks with a wide grin. “It was tough, but I think I had a pretty good game. The team did very well tonight.”
After the North struck first on its opening drive when Martinsburg’s Justin “Cookie” Miller hit Frankfort’s Thane Cutter on a 30-yard touchdown pass, the South evened things at 7-7 thanks to a fumble recovery in the end zone by Huntington’s Toney Kitts.
The South got its first offensive touchdown of the evening on a 9-yard run by Winfield’s Seth Lewis with 4:23 remaining in the second quarter. The North fought back to tie the game at 14-14 right before the break when Wheeling Park’s Quashad Pugh picked off a pass from Wahama’s Trenton Gibbs and went 82 yards for the score.
The second half belonged to the Cardinals as they scored two touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarters while limiting the offensive attack of the Bears.
The North coaches chose during the week of training camp at West Virginia State University to put their offense into the hands of Miller, who is set to play wide receiver for the University of Charleston. Miller spent much of the night running for his life. Hicks had plenty to do with keeping the elusive Miller in check.
“I kind of got excited to try and get Cookie,” said the smiling Hicks, who was drenched in sweat during postgame ceremonies on the University of Charleston turf.
Miller, who was voted the North’s Most Valuable Player, finished the game with 45 rushing yards on 18 carries. He was 4-for-15 passing for 77 yards and the touchdown. He threw one interception in the game and actually caught a break by not being charged with another. On the North’s opening scoring drive, Miller threw a pass to Parkersburg South’s Logan Cox that was ruled a catch but was clearly picked off by Nitro’s Ethan Clark.
Beckley quarterback Andrew Johnson was the South’s MVP. Johnson was 11-of-14 passing for 190 yards and two touchdowns. He accumulated 78 yards running the football Saturday night on 13 carries. He scored one rushing touchdown from 14 yards out and also caught two passes for 45 yards.
Page 2 of 2 - Playing in the game was meaningful for Hicks in a variety of ways. What meant the most for the Ripley High Male Athlete of the Year was getting the chance to honor his older brother David. A year ago David Hicks, the 2012 Athlete of the Year, was forced out of the game and to the sidelines because of a serious illness.
“This (to play for David) was very important,” said Hicks. “David came home from last year’s North-South game and threw me his jersey and said, ‘Why don’t you go get one next year.’”
David Hicks was chosen for the North last year and served as an honorary captain after being unable to play. This year both Jackson County and Mason County were moved back to the South (where they had been from 1976-1989).
Regardless of which team represented, just getting to hit the field for his brother was huge. “This was very important for me,” said Daryl. “I did get him a win, I got to be on the winning side this year.”
Hicks is now bound for Alderson-Broaddus to wrestle for Ripley native Mitch Smith’s Battlers.
While his football days appear to be over, fortunately he will always remember that last game which featured all-stars.
And in 2013, Daryl Hicks shined as bright as any.