Drew Hicks

Drew Hicks was a standout in both football and basketball for Sweetwater.

It’s not hard to find praise for Drew Hicks.

The now-graduated Sweetwater athlete left positive impressions on multiple coaches during his prep career. Whether on the gridiron or the court, his impact was easy to spot.

Here’s what the Wildcats will have to replace following Hicks’s departure:

A physical football player

Heading into last season, Sweetwater head football coach Mike Martin knew what he had in the hard-running, aggressive tailback/linebacker.

Hicks had returned from a brief transfer to Knoxville Catholic, ready to finish his high school career where it began.

“(Hicks is) a talent,” Martin said then. “And he’s where he wants to be. I think he’s grown up with these guys and played with them all of his life. He’s happy and Bryce Johnson and him are a pretty good tandem to have back there, just to be honest with you.”

And Hicks showed his talent during his senior season, serving as the Wildcats’ main running back and bolstering their defense at the second level. He produced multiple big offensive showings, while his play at linebacker was key for a strong Sweetwater defensive unit.

With Hicks’s aid, Sweetwater went 7-4 last season, a notable rebound from the previous year’s 2-8 record. It also marked a fitting end to a career that saw Hicks contribute heavily to the Wildcats for years.

A confident sharpshooter

Hicks didn’t show the same impact on the court until midway into his senior basketball season. But after the momentum started, it never slowed down.

Hicks played a key role in Sweetwater’s win over county rival Tellico Plains in January. He hit three 3-pointers and scored 13 total points.

His sharpshooting was also evident in other county games, as Hicks scored in double-digits in both of Sweetwater’s games against Sequoyah. When the Wildcats beat the Chiefs in a revenge win during the second half of the season, Hicks tallied 12 points.

“Drew (Hicks) has been stepping up probably since that first Sequoyah game, honestly,” Sweetwater head boys basketball coach Jeremy Henderson said then. “That’s about where I think it’s really clicked with him … We’ve went more of a four-guard (lineup) because we believe that Drew, right now, he helps us.

“He’s deserving of those minutes. Becoming another senior leader for us.”

Hicks showed off his 3-point shooting abilities in multiple games, adding a deeper layer to Sweetwater’s offensive attack. He also wasn’t afraid to rebound and battle for tough shots.

How to replace Hicks

Both the football and basketball Wildcats must now figure out how to replace Hicks’s production.

Rising senior running back/linebacker Bryce Johnson is the most obvious solution on the football field. He ran behind Hicks last season and was easily the team’s top defender, registering 116 total tackles.

As for other tailback options, the Wildcats will return young running backs Malik Arnett, Gavin Macon, Zac Powers and Eli Brown.

Johnson may also help fill the void on the court. He’s an important part of Sweetwater’s boys basketball team, able to rebound and play aggressive inside.

Johnson isn’t the long-distance shooter Hicks was, though, so Henderson may have to scope out another sharpshooter to make up for the lack there. And he has options, none more glaring than Hicks’s former partner in the backfield.

Rising senior Austin Long, also Sweetwater’s starting quarterback, can sink shots from any distance. He also boasts aggressiveness in the paint and in the rebounding sector, plus an unrelenting drive.

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