Opening night for high school athletics is often all about looking forward, with players and their respective teams setting out on their journey to try and reach their short- and long-term goals.
For a few moments on Friday night, though, the Long Reach community took some time to look back and remember one of their own.
Arthur Hicks, who coached JV football and scouted for the varsity squad at Long Reach High School for 15 years, passed away unexpectedly this past January due to health complications. So with that in mind, prior to the season-opening home varsity game against Mt. Hebron, the Lightning held an on-field ceremony to honor Hicks and his contributions.
“This means to me that his work did not go unnoticed,” said his daughter, Artranda Hicks. “It means that everyone else saw in him, what I saw in him — that he was an amazing person who impacted the lives of many in a positive way. It shows me that he is greatly missed not only by my family and I, but so many more.”
The Long Reach football team will carry a tribute to Hicks with them all season by wearing a decal with his initials on their helmets. Coach Jamie Willis said afterward that it’s the least the program could do for a man he considers family.
“When I came here in 2002, Art Hicks was the head JV coach and as soon as I came on the staff he took me under his wing and helped me out tremendously. From that very first day, he was like a brother to me,” Willis said. “So to lose him was devastating. I miss him every single day. As far as I’m concerned, Howard County has lost a legend.”
Willis said ahead of time, while speaking over the loudspeaker to the crowd, that the Lightning was dedicating their effort in the game to Hicks. The team then delivered a performance he would have been proud of, using a late touchdown to beat the visiting Vikings 12-6.
While his most recent contributions were at Long Reach, Hicks’ history in the football community goes back almost 40 years. He started with the Columbia Optimist Boys Recreation Association (COBRA) football program, before eventually moving on to coach and lead in the Howard County Trojans organization.
Artranda said her father always went above and beyond to provide whatever it was the young players around him needed.
“He was not only a football coach, but a mentor, guidance counselor and, for some, a father figure,” she said. “He looked out for those kids and did his best to keep them on the straight and narrow and out of trouble. He really meant a lot to the community.”