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Hickson sets the standard

Jerry Hickson and Joe Licata have always been bound by history.

The quarterbacks first became friends via social media after Licata, then a junior at Williamsville South, broke the single-game passing record of Hickson’s father, former Cheektowaga star Jerry Sr., in 2009. The friendship took off from there – as they have trained together and worked with the same quarterback coach, Jim Kubiak.

History remains the primary tie that binds Hickson and Licata and nothing is ever going to change that – or perhaps the order in which they are listed in the record books.

Western New York has a new scholastic career passing yards leader. It’s Hickson, as the St. Francis senior surpassed Licata’s total of 6,671 during the Red Raiders’ 48-0 triumph over Cardinal O’Hara in a Monsignor Martin Association game Saturday afternoon at Polian Family Field.

A crowd of 1,032 witnessed history late in the second quarter with St. Francis nursing a 13-0 lead. Hickson threw a quick swing pass to the right to junior Dylan McDuffie, who gained 12 yards on the play, with 11 seconds left.

Neither Hickson nor the fans knew he passed Licata until the public address announcer informed the masses shortly after Retsen Daley’s 89-yard kickoff return touchdown to open the third quarter. The fans gave Hickson a huge ovation and watched him exchange handshakes with his linemen and receivers on the sideline, thanking them for helping him rise to No. 1.

“It’s great,” said Hickson, who has thrown for 6,797 yards. “It’s been a long four years but a great four years. I couldn’t have done it without the O-linemen and receivers making plays. It’s my name but it’s this team’s record. I owe it to them.

“It still hasn’t really sunk in.”

Randall Secky (Maple Grove), Dillon Janca (Orchard Park) and Chad Kelly (St. Joe’s) round out the top five in career scholastic passing yards leaders in the 716. Janca is the only active player besides Hickson on the list and has a chance to pass Secky’s total of 5,915 during OP’s contest next Saturday at Niagara Falls. Janca has 5,753. Kelly’s total is 5,209.

“Like I was saying with the kids afterwards ... everybody’s contributed but it’s really gratifying to see a kid of this caliber as a person, as a player, just a great human being to break the record of the same type of individual,” longtime Red Raiders coach Jerry Smith said. “Joe Licata was an outstanding individual player and person and to have a person just like him to break his record, I think Joe would be proud of that.”

He is.

“Anytime you get mentioned as an all-time leader in something, it’s awesome,” Licata said. “He has a bright future. ... He deserves it.”

The Hickson Watch was in full effect Saturday as fans arrived early with some tailgating with baked goods prior to the rare afternoon home game.

The Red Raiders (2-3) got off to a slow start against the winless Hawks (0-6) with Hickson misfiring on his first three pass attempts and getting sacked.

That changed on St. Francis’ second drive as he and Daley hooked up on a 94-yard touchdown pass play as Hickson, who entered the game needing 167 yards for the record, leaped closer to the mark.

That was one of four touchdown passes for Hickson, who threw for 292 yards before being lifted with the game no longer in doubt.

“Being able to share (the milestone day) with him is a great experience,” said Daley, who caught four passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. “I know it’s not just him doing it. It’s all of us. We’re working with him. We hope he gets a lot more yards and shatters the record even more.”

There have been many great quarterbacks to wear St. Francis colors over the years. Kubiak. Ilio DiPaolo. Mike Radon. Current assistant coach Larry Tyger. Hickson’s been on the list. He’s now the most productive of them all.

“It’s nice to have something like this happen,” Smith said.

“Joe is a really good role model to me,” Hickson said. “Just being able to reach his standard is just great.”


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