For South Pointe's Tay Hicklin, playing quarterback is something he says he's played since he was old enough to hold a football.
Watching Hicklin run up and down the field, it's easy to believe him. He has shown his versatility while waiting his turn to call plays and take snaps this season.
The Stallions play possibly their most important game to date today on the road at Winnsboro's Fairfield Central. It's a Region 4-AAA game, with the winner getting a leg up on a good playoff seed. But it's also a game Fairfield Central is pointing to with reason.
The Stallions are 6-1, losing only to 7-0 and Class AAAA power Northwestern. They are ranked No. 1 in Class AAA.
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The Griffins are 7-0 overall and are ranked third this week. To the winner goes first place in the region and the No. 1 state ranking in their classification.
The game is coming at the right time for Hicklin and South Pointe. Coach Bobby Carroll switched offenses this season, putting in the pitch option that fits his quarterback and junior running backs Montay Crockett and JaRyan Jennings.
"It had to be hard on Tay because we threw him out there in a completely new offense,'' Carroll said. "It took us a while to get it working, but now it's starting to click. Tay is a great kid, an A-B student who knows the game. He is suited for this offense and runs it well.''
Hicklin was the starting quarterback for the Stallions' 9th-grade team. Last season he moved to the varsity and won starting positions at wide receiver and defensive back. When the Stallions had put distance between themselves and an opponent, Carroll put Hicklin under center to help get him ready for this season.
His first season on varsity was fairly productive. Hicklin led the team in receiving with 33 catches for 517 yards and a touchdown, completed 5 of 11 passes for 108 yards and a TD and had 35 carries for 180 yards and five touchdowns.
"I feel like I can play any skill position on the field,'' he said. "I enjoy playing quarterback, but if I'm going to make it to the NFL some day, it will be as a defensive back or a slot receiver.
"I had a growth spurt that I feel has helped make me stronger and able to do more physical things. I was 5-foot-10, 160 pounds last year. This season I'm 6-0, 172. But last year got me ready. We had a good starting quarterback, Corey Rawls, and I had no problem backing him up.''
Rawls passed for 1,644 yards and 11 TDs. Hicklin is more of a runner, thus the switch to the option. He said he patterns his game after former South Pointe quarterback Stephon Gilmore, an outstanding runner and sophomore starter for South Carolina, and Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick, who, before getting injured, surprisingly was passing more and running less this season.
Hicklin has run for 507 yards and 10 TDs on 93 attempts. He has passed for 489 yards and seven touchdowns.
Carroll said in the coming weeks expect to see Hicklin in the secondary more often.
Carroll pointed out a coach wants to have his best players positioned where they can help the most during region play.
"We need him on defense more because he has a great knowledge of football,'' Carroll said. "He has that drive and determination that makes players special. We are going into Week 8, so we have to look at who is on the field and if we need to make adjustments.
"Tay is an athlete ... very gifted. He's got another year but college coaches are already recruiting him. He's hearing from most all SEC and ACC schools. Georgia Tech and Wake Forest are showing the most interest, but Michigan likes him, too.''
College seems miles away to Hicklin, a three-sport standout at his school: football in the fall, basketball in the winter and track in the spring.
His top priorities are winning the region title -- Chester also stands in the way if the Stallions get past the Griffins -- and leading his team to the state championship. He has the head and skills to do both, and he is growing fonder of the offense by the game.
"I thought it would be hard at first; making the reads to keep the ball and turn it upfield or pitch to a trailing back,'' Hicklin said. "But a quarterback has to make reads on every play, so picking up the option was not that hard for me.
"Fairfield Central is a big game and all of us are excited. But we can't get caught up in the hoopla and can't lose our focus. We have to treat it like it's just another game. All our games are big, so that shouldn't be a problem.''
SOUTH POINTE STALLIONS VS. FAIRFIELD CENTRAL GRIFFINS, 8 p.m.
Where: Fairfield Central HS, Winnsboro
NORTHWESTERN TROJANS VS. LANCASTER BRUINS, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lancaster
ROCK HILL BEARCATS VS. GAFFNEY INDIANS, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Reservation, Gaffney
SPARTANBURG VIKINGS VS. CLOVER BLUE EAGLES, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Municipal Stadium, Clover
FORT MILL YELLOW JACKETS VS. YORK COUGARS, 7:30 p.m.
Where: York Stadium, York
NATION FORD FALCONS VS. CHESTER CYCLONES, 8 p.m.
Where: Cyclones Stadium, Chester
CENTRAL EAGLES VS. INDIAN LAND WARRIORS, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Reservation, Indian Land
MCBEE PANTHERS VS. GREAT FALLS RED DEVILS, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Pride Valley, Great Falls
NORTH CENTRAL VS. LEWISVILLE LIONS, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Lions Den, Richburg
WESTMINSTER CATAWBA INDIANS VS. HICKORY GROVE LIONS, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hickory Grove