Hickman, defense carry Cathedral to victory

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -– With the game on the line, in double overtime, after tying the game with a score, the task of completing the two point conversion duty goes to your tugboat. At five-foot-six, 160 pounds, tugboat is not what first comes to mind, but sophomore man-child Kejonte Hickman is just that.

“He is ferocious for his size. He runs like he is 210 pounds,” said Cathedral coach Duane Sigsbury. “There was no doubt who was going to get the ball for us, it just came down to who was going to block and tackle better, and that’s what we did.”

Forty-six carries on the day, even in a double overtime game, is a heavy load for one young man, or grown man for that matter to bear. But with a slight limp that increased in intensity as the postgame celebration wore on, Hickman stood a champion, having hauled 249 rushing yards with three touchdowns to his credit. That is a stat line usually reserved for quarterback passing numbers, but Hickman accumulated that on the ground.

“This is my little brother right here,” said Rajdel Francois, left guard, referring to Hickman. “I’m going to do whatever I have to do to protect him.”

Hickman got the call to run in the final extra point for the Panthers season, but they do house a kicking unit, led by Kadeem Edge. With temperatures below freezing and quarter sized snowflakes free falling, coach Sigs opted to put the ball in the hands of the young Panther instead of assembling the field goal unit. The gamble paid off.

“I love to run the football,” said Sigsbury. “I like smash mouth football.”

Although Sigsbury loves to pound the ball, his offensive line is unconventional at best. With no players above 240 -- the heaviest Derek Welcome (6-foot-3, 236 pounds) and lightest Francois (5-10, 210), the game play on the line is slightly different. Instead of overpowering opponents, the team uses agility to its benefit.

“Given the speed we have on the line, our coach wants us to use that to our advantage to give our skill position players space,” said Mohammed Braimah. “We have speed all over the field so he just wanted to put our quarterback KJ [Hickman] and our running back Jamal space and let them run.”

When the line parted the sea for Hickman as he bounded left and he crossed the plane with the ball, the moment meant more than two points, an overtime win, or a Super Bowl victory for a second year coach. For the Cathedral seniors who have been playing since their freshman year, Hickman’s extra point score meant a critical culmination of summer practices, spring weight lifting sessions and hours of sacrifice for the Cathedral football program.

It also signified young men moving onto the next phase of life with a feeling of achievement.

“Last year, we got here and we didn’t finish the job,” appended Braimah, referring to last year’s loss at Bentley University in the Division 4A Super Bowl. “This year, our motto for every time we broke down was ‘finish’ on three. That’s just how we ended the year. We finished with a state championship.”

For Hickman, who will be back with the Panthers for another couple of seasons, his gift to pull his team safely to the top of Mt. Olympus was not lost on the young tugboat.

“They’re my older brothers, the senior offensive linemen,” Hickman added. “I just wanted to go out there and win this for them.”