Jiare Hicks plays football for St. Georges. But you could say he’s familiar with Hodgson, the Hawks’ opponent in Saturday’s DIAA Division II championship game.
“I know everybody,” Hicks said Monday. “All starting 22.
“It’s competitive, and it’s really fun at the same time,” he added. “It’s like backyard football, but it’s more serious.”
St. Georges and Hodgson will kick off at 2 p.m. in the state’s most prestigious backyard – Delaware Stadium. The Hawks are striving for their first state championship in only their sixth season of varsity football, and Hicks will be heavily involved.
“He plays everything,” St. Georges coach J.D. Maull said. “He doesn’t come off the field. Saturday, he will not come off the field. He’s going to have to play every play.”
The senior has given the Hawks a reliable receiving threat as a tight end, and is St. Georges’ leading tackler as a defensive end. Hicks wears No. 7, and his primary job will be to counteract Hodgson’s No. 7 – superstar quarterback-defensive end Ray Jones.
“He has to be a playmaker for us,” Maull said. “He has to get after the ultimate weapon, Ray Jones. He has to get after him.
“He has to block Ray Jones on offense, too. He has to play both sides of the ball, and he has to cause havoc for us on defense.”
Hicks wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, he knows Jones. He knows everybody.
“I like the aggression, getting after the quarterback,” Hicks said. “I can just be more natural.”
Maull said the 6-foot-3, 214-pound Hicks has blossomed into a fierce defender. He has 61 tackles, 16 ½ tackles for loss, 7½ sacks, five pass deflections, three fumble recoveries and a blocked punt.
“You watch him now, he’s using his hands all the time,” Maull said. “Last year, and his sophomore year, he was more of a forearm guy and just tried to use his quickness. Now, he uses his hands to swat the offensive lineman’s hands down.”
Hodgson coach Frank Moffett has taken notice. Hicks blocked a punt in St. Georges’ 28-19 victory over the Silver Eagles last season.
“He’s an outstanding football player,” Moffett said. “He’s got good range, he’s got good speed, and he’s an explosive player on the edge.”
The Hawks don’t throw often, attempting only 73 passes through 12 games. But Hicks is the leading receiver with 12 catches for 268 yards and six touchdowns.
He snagged 22- and 21-yard touchdown passes from quarterback Zach Wright in the Hawks’ 37-21 victory over Woodbridge in the semifinals. And he caught an intermediate pass, broke a tackle and went 52 yards for the winning points with 1:13 to play in St. Georges’ 27-23 victory over Caravel on Nov. 2. But the modest Hicks didn’t see it as the deciding play.
“It felt really good to get the win, but I don’t like to call that a game-winning touchdown, because there were other touchdowns that led up to that moment,” he said.
Of course, he wouldn’t mind scoring the game-winner on Saturday. Hodgson edged St. Georges 24-21 in the Blue Hen Flight B rivals’ annual meeting on Sept. 28, the only loss of the season for the Hawks (11-1).
“We’re really excited. We had a lot of people doubting us, and we just want to show everybody we’re here for a reason,” Hicks said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, working hard for it, and it’s here. We’re ready.”