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Hicks Leads Way for Fullerton

Two-way standout helps Indians stay unbeaten with two touchdown passes in 21-17 victory over St. John Bosco.

September 24, 2004|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

Many components go into the making of a sound defensive back. Physical tools are always a plus. A strong nucleus can help make any defender look good. Luck will always play a part. And then there are those who seem to have the ability to get inside a quarterback's head.

Xavier Hicks of Fullerton benefits from all of the aforementioned traits. A senior free safety and quarterback for the Indians, he has patrolled the secondary since his sophomore year, amassing 19 interceptions during that span.

He began showing similar command of the offense last season, throwing for 1,922 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushing for 455 yards and three scores to help Fullerton reach the Southern Section Division IX semifinals.

Thursday night against Division I playoff contender Bellflower St. John Bosco, Hicks forced two fumbles on defense to keep the Indians in the game until he completed two touchdown passes in the final two minutes to help defeat the Braves, 21-17.

Hicks said playing both sides of the ball has made him a smarter football player, especially on defense, where he's expected to play at the next level.

"I know I'm not one of the fastest [defensive backs], but I probably have a better awareness level," Hicks said. "That puts me at the right spot on the field."

Against St. John Bosco, Hicks hit wide receiver Barry Robinson with a 56-yard touchdown pass to pull Fullerton (3-0) within three points, 17-14. Robinson then recovered an on-side kick and Hicks followed with an 18-yard pass to running back David Allen, a 13-yard scramble and a 17-yard touchdown pass to his younger brother, Michael, with 48 seconds remaining.

Hicks completed 16 of 28 passes for 240 yards and had 98 yards rushing in eight carries to lead the Indians, ranked No. 1 in Southern Section Division IX.

Hicks caused two fumbles by St. John Bosco running back Daniel Jenkins and made a touchdown-saving tackle at the end of a 48-yard fourth-quarter run by Jenkins, leaving the Braves to settle for their final three points. He also batted down the final two passes to preserve the victory.

Jenkins finished with 207 yards rushing in 17 carries for the Braves (2-1), ranked No. 9 in Division I.

"He's a Pac-10 kind of kid, no doubt," said St. John Bosco Coach Kiki Mendoza. "We knew that going into the game."

Hicks has intercepted three passes this season.

If he can match his season total of eight from each of the last two seasons, he will move into the top 10 on the state's all-time career list, according to Cal-Hi Sports.

"I can read most quarterbacks," said Hicks, who is also the punter. "I know where they're going [to pass] and I can prepare myself."

Julian Smilowitz said Hicks is the best all-around player he has coached in 13 years at Fullerton.

"He has some talent," Smilowitz said. "It's also instincts and the right feel for the game."

Hicks said he would never have developed a "nose for the ball" without years of experience in youth football.

"When you've played a sport for a long time, it usually gives you an awareness and instincts for where the ball is going," he said.

And that includes tracking down deflected or rushed passes. Hicks is again fortunate to be surrounded by an aggressive defense, which not only redirects many throws but regularly disrupts the timing of pass plays by pressuring the quarterback.

Such was the case in a Freeway League game against La Habra last season, when Hicks intercepted a pass over the middle and returned it 93 yards for a touchdown in a 35-3 victory. Hicks credited linebacker David Allen, the team's other top returning player this season, for making the La Habra quarterback "throw the ball where he didn't want to throw it."

Of course, Hicks is the first to admit that good fortune has played a part in his success.

"Being in the right place at the right time is always a good place to be," he said.

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