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September 22, 2012

H.S. Football: Hicks passes Westwood past Malakoff late

For the past 2 1/2 seasons, Westwood fans and opponents alike have been regularly dazzled by the legs and feet of Keke Hicks.

On Friday night, both were introduced to a third dimension — Hicks’ right arm.

A scrambling Hicks rolled right and found Dra Ross at the goal line on a 21-yard scoring toss in the final minute as Westwood erased a 17-point second-half deficit to stun Malakoff, 34-30, Friday night at Tiger Stadium.

The Panthers trailed, 30-13, midway through the third quarter and appeared ripe for a blowout before rallying for their most impressive victory in recent seasons.

Hicks, who threw for two touchdowns — both to Ross — and ran for two others, had 298 total yards offense (15 carries for 189 yards rushing and 5-of-9 passing for 109 yards).

“We’ve known what a dynamic kid he (Hicks) is with the ball in his hands,” Westwood head coach Roger Mays said following the Panthers’ come-from-behind win, “but his passing is something that he’s needed to develop.”

With Hicks showing the ability to do damage with his arm, Panther opponents now have something else to think about.

“It’s going to help him,” Mays said of Hicks’ developing passing game, “and help our team.”

Leading, 24-13, at the half, Malakoff received the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 81 yards in 11 plays, chewing up half of the third quarter clock and scoring on a 11-yard run by Dariuhn Jackson.

The Tigers’ two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, but Malakoff still appeared to be in complete command, 30-13, with 5:55 left in the third quarter.

Westwood, however, answered on its next possession to get within 10 points.

The Panthers scored when Ross made a beautiful grab in close coverage at the goal line on a 30-yard strike from Hicks with 2:19 left in the third.

Umanzor’s PAT brought Westwood within, 30-20.

One minute into the final quarter and still trailing by 10 points, Westwood took over on downs at its own 26 after Malakoff came up empty on a fourth-and-16 pass in Panther territory.

Thanks to a late hit against the Tigers, the Panthers quickly moved into Malakoff territory, facing a first-and-10 from the Tiger 45.

From that point, Hicks turned on the jets and raced 45 yards and, after Umanzor’s PAT, the Panthers were within three points, 30-27, with 9:28 left in the contest.

Hicks had earlier scored the Panthers’ opening touchdown of the game on a 48-yard run.

With its defense stiffening, Westwood took over its own 48 with 2:31 left in the contest and a chance to post an improbable victory.

Four plays later on fourth-and-5 from the Tiger 47, Hicks connected with Chris Thompson on a 40-yard pass to the Malakoff 7.

A 4-yard loss on a run by Hicks and a holding penalty which negated a Westwood go-ahead touchdown put the Panthers in a third-and-goal predicament from the Malakoff 21 with under a minute to go.

On third-and-goal from that point, Hicks was quickly flushed out of the pocket by a host of Malakoff defenders, rolled right and gathered himself to find Ross at the goal line for the Panthers’ go-ahead touchdown.

Malakoff got the ball back with 28 seconds left at its own 47, but could not penetrate the Panthers’ side of the field.

Westwood, which is open next week and hosts Groesbeck Oct. 5 in its final non-district game, improved to 2-2 with the win.

Previously-undefeated Malakoff fell to 3-1.

Malakoff ran 31 offensive plays in the opening half, compared to just 13 for Westwood — the final of which was a 25-yard loss when the shotgun snap from center sailed over the head of Hicks.

While Westwood hurt itself in the first half with botched special teams; a lost fumble; and missed tackles, the Panthers did have some bright spots, most notably by a pair of explosive runs by Hicks. The electrifying senior scored on a 48-yard burst in the first quarter and set up his squad’s second touchdown with a 38-yard sprint from the quarterback position.

When Westwood quarterback Thompson scored on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal from the Malakoff 1, the Panthers trailed by five points, 18-13, following Pedro Umanzor’s PAT with 6:13 remaining in the second quarter.

The Tigers, however, answered with a nine-play, 66-yard drive to push their advantage back to double digits, with the big gainer being a 40-yard strike from Wolfe-to-Jackson.

Jackson had three receptions for 100 yards in the opening half.

With 56 seconds left until the break, Wolfe capped the scoring march by finding paydirt on a 3-yard keeper around right end to give Malakoff some breathing room, 24-13.

For the fourth time in as many tries, Malakoff failed in its two-point conversion attempt.

Malakoff finished the first half with 219 yards, while Westwood had 89, with 86 of that total coming on a pair of Hicks’ runs.

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