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.
It’s 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 doesn’t have that problem – he and the Indians won yet another championship last season in Class 4A’s other division. That didn’t help on Friday, as the Trojans pummeled Gaffney’s young defense and Davidson had to stand there and watch his offense flounder without him in the game.
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When it ended, there wasn’t 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 didn’t think Gaffney could have played much better.
“Really, to me, I think we did pretty good tonight,” Davidson said. “We’re 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 they’re pretty good.”
Plus, there’s 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. Who’s to say that can’t 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, I’m just trying to help the defensive side. Do what’s 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. He’s also hoping to play receiver in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January. Right now, it’s 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. “I’ve been trying to work harder, stay after practice, do extra. Just so they can see I’m trying to work hard to be back to be with them, to play.”
He’ll head to Columbia on Thursday to take in USC’s season-opener against North Carolina, and then see the doctor on Friday. He’s hoping that there will be some kind of way that he’ll 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, he’ll 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.
“I’ll be back,” he said, casting a wistful eye toward the sky. “I just hope it’s soon.”
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