ROCK HILL — Shaq Davidson stood on the sideline, clad in his No. 4 game jersey and shorts, cradling a football in one arm and occasionally running one finger over the small white scar at the base of his right thumb.
Its feeling much better, after the Gaffney High School quarterback tore a ligament in it during the spring and had to have surgery. But Davidson was hurting much, much worse on Friday as his teammates opened his senior season.
Host Northwestern throttled Gaffney 51-19, unleashing its explosive offense behind the passing of quarterback, and Oklahoma State commitment, Mason Rudolph. Strong kick returns kept Gaffney in the game to start, but Northwestern was just too powerful, too capable, too eager to erase the sour memory of coming a dropped touchdown short of forcing double overtime for the state championship last year.
Davidson doesnt have that problem he and the Indians won yet another championship last season in Class 4As other division. That didnt help on Friday, as the Trojans pummeled Gaffneys young defense and Davidson had to stand there and watch his offense flounder without him in the game.
When it ended, there wasnt much else to do but shake hands, kneel for the post-game and soak in coach Dan Jones words. As Jones pointed out, the Indians lost 10 defensive starters and were going against a Trojans team that has made a living with the Air Raid offense. At one point in the first half, Rudolph was 18-of-19 (the only drop was a touchdown pass) and even with that, Jones didnt think Gaffney could have played much better.
Really, to me, I think we did pretty good tonight, Davidson said. Were really young on defense, and offensive-wise, I think (quarterback Eddie Studyvance) did great to only have two, three weeks to get ready to play quarterback. Northwestern, their offense theyre pretty good.
Plus, theres always the knowledge of what happened last year.
Gaffney was also hammered by Northwestern to start the season last year, and after righting the ship to get to 3-2, shockingly lost to Wade Hampton (G). That was when Jones and his staff switched Davidson to quarterback.
Nine wins (and no losses) later, Gaffney raised its 17th state championship trophy. Whos to say that cant happen again, especially when Davidson returns?
But when will that be? And will Davidson play quarterback, where the Indians drew inspiration from him him last year?
I go to the doctor again on Friday, going to see if I can club it up and play a little bit of defense, safety, Davidson said. Later on during the season, I might play offense, but right now, Im just trying to help the defensive side. Do whats best for the team.
Davidson has already committed to South Carolina as a wide receiver, and if he gets the chance to play wideout this year, fine. Hes also hoping to play receiver in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January. Right now, its just about doing whatever it takes to get back on the field.
Friday, he stood there, his USC cap on his head, and tried to keep his frustration at not being able to play out of the way in order to coach his teammates. I was just trying to get them all motivated, he said. Ive been trying to work harder, stay after practice, do extra. Just so they can see Im trying to work hard to be back to be with them, to play.
Hell head to Columbia on Thursday to take in USCs season-opener against North Carolina, and then see the doctor on Friday. Hes hoping that there will be some kind of way that hell either be cleared, or that Gaffney can tape his wounded hand up enough to protect the thumb, so he can play against Clinton that night.
If not, hell do whatever he has to do to get back on the field as soon as possible. At least by Oct. 18, when the Indians travel to rival Byrnes.
Ill be back, he said, casting a wistful eye toward the sky. I just hope its soon.
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