There are days, Cy Hicks says, when the adrenaline gets the best of his stomach.
The Tumwater High School senior vividly remembers the football program’s trip to Bellevue last season and what that did to his insides.
Hicks, a two-way lineman, said it was a tough game against a physical team. The T-Birds trailed by four with two seconds to play. Tumwater had one shot at the end zone from the 26-yard line.
“They called the play — Flutie Left — and I was just hoping to God it would work out,” Hicks said. “When I saw the ball go up, and saw Cade (Otton’s) giant bear hands come up and grab the ball, I was super excited.
“But it was also suspenseful because he fell down. I was like, ‘Does he have the ball?’ ”
Otton had the ball and Tumwater won, 15-13, as time expired.
“I was just so happy,” Hicks said. “And then I threw up.”
Hicks expects the rematch between these two storied programs — which have combined for 17 state titles — Friday night at Tumwater District Stadium to be just as nerve-wracking.
“I don’t expect anything less,” he said. “It’s going to be a great game. They’re really good. We’re working to be really good. It’s going to be a great matchup.”
The T-Birds (2-0), ranked second in Class 2A in this week’s Associated Press poll, struggled early in their season opener at Franklin Pierce before romping to a 52-18 win. Last week, they traveled to Columbia River and routed the Chieftains, 55-6.
Bellevue (1-1), ranked 10th in 3A this week, lost to Richland — last year’s 4A state runner-up — in its opener before responding with a 34-16 win over Garfield. And, despite being in the final year of their postseason ban, the Wolverines appear hungry.
“We’re playing opposite a great historic program that runs the wing-T as well as anybody on the West Coast,” Tumwater coach Bill Beattie said. “Their history is phenomenal, and we’ll see where we’re at.”
That said, Beattie, in his first year at Tumwater, is glad to have an athlete like Hicks (6-foot-3, 265 pounds) playing every snap.
Hicks was an Olympian All-Area football selection as a junior, blocking for an offense that averaged 42 points per game. He contributed to a defense that limited opponents to 2.3 yards per rushing attempt, and added 46 tackles.
Hicks also won the 2A state heavyweight title last season in wrestling.
“Cy does separate himself more than most people in his work ethic,” Beattie said. “He does not ever do anything at half speed. It’s always full. Whether it’s in the weight room, running, wrestling or football. He’s full go at everything he does.”
Which helps to explain the occasional upset stomach, but Hicks wouldn’t have it any other way. He expects the T-Birds to be just as competitive at the state level as they have been in past years.
“We grind all the time, every day,” he said. “We’re trying to be the hardest-working program.”
Hicks is one of only four returning starters on offense, and one of four on defense. With several new players rotating in, Beattie said Hicks has taken on a bigger leadership role.
“I know players and coaches have always looked to him, but he’s been such a quiet kid,” Beattie said. “He’s still a fairly quiet kid, but his example and when he chooses to talk is just spot on.”
Being more vocal is a different dynamic for Hicks, he said, but he enjoys how it positively impacts other players.
“Kids are stepping up and taking the roles of people last year,” Hicks said. “It’s always developmental — you’ve got to learn. The more experience you get, the more you learn and the better you become.
“That’s what’s happening right now, is we’re just learning every play of every game.”
Beattie said Hicks offers words of encouragement to teammates when they make a mistake, reinforcing what the program is trying to accomplish.
And, the rare moment Hicks makes a mistake, he corrects it and it doesn’t happen again, Beattie said. That’s what makes him so impressive to coaches.
“It’s hard to argue with a kid who leads by such a good example,” Beattie said. “When he makes mistakes, he owns it and gets better at it. His accountability is great.”
Hicks said he isn’t over thinking Friday’s meeting with Bellevue, but approaching it just as he would any other game.
And, while the next three weeks against tough nonleague opponents — Bellevue, No. 9 Union (4A) and Steilacoom (2A) — will be good tests, those games won’t define Tumwater’s season.
“The highlight of our season is the postseason,” Hicks said.
Added Beattie: “It’s up to us to decide how far we go and how we do.”