COLUMBIA – Hickman coach Jason Wright put him on the spot in the film room. He told him it was nothing personal, but Wright didn’t like the way senior wide receiver Wesley Leftwich was playing. The coach challenged Leftwich to show up for Friday’s game against Hazelwood West.
With 156 yards of offense and two touchdowns on just four touches, Leftwich did more than show up. He led the way as the Hickman football team scored a 30-0 victory over Hazelwood West at LeMone Field to improve to 2-1.
Leftwich got started immediately, turning a screen pass on the fifth play from scrimmage into a 48-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Hickman advantage.
“We got him off the snide early,” Wright said. “We got his confidence up and that was important.”
For a player of Leftwich’s caliber, he hadn’t been performing up to expectations in the season’s first two games. Leftwich entered his senior season ranked as the No. 109 wide receiver in the nation by ESPN and has verbally committed to play his college football at MU, but he had been a virtual non-factor as a receiver (he also kicks, punts and plays defense) thus far.
“I told him it was time for him to play like a kid that was going to the University of Missouri,” Wright said. “Point blank, period.”
The 6-foot 2-inch, 205-pounder made his second splash Friday on a 62-yard touchdown catch, this time on a long ball down the left sideline. The previous play, Leftwich had been open down the seam but quarterback Logan Fitch found Tyler Sprigg for an 11-yard gain instead. Leftwich’s speed was too much to ignore on the next play.
“I told him to look for me,” Leftwich said. “It was a really good pass.”
In the third quarter, Leftwich got the ball on an end around that looked like it was going nowhere. Three Wildcat defenders appeared to have Leftwich squared up in the backfield, but he ran through their arm tackles and down the sideline for a 41-yard dash that set up a Will Owens's 1-yard touchdown run.
The offensive display was impressive, but what Leftwich did on kickoffs may have been his most impressive physical feat of the night. Three times he kicked the ball through the uprights, which stand 70 yards away on kickoffs (high school football kickoffs are from the 40-yard line). Each time the crowd cheered loudly and Leftwich returned to the sidelines where his teammates held their hands up, mimicking the signal the officials make when a field goal is good.
“I’d rather score touchdowns,” Leftwich said. “But it’s fun to do that.”
Amusement aside, his coach felt that he played an important part in the first time Hickman shut out consecutive opponents since 2000.
“He was the unsung hero,” Wright said. “I’m glad he’s on our side.”