Surrounded by established playmakers such as Dallas Reagor, Hayes Crockett, Jordan Townsend and Layton Rainbolt, Hixson Street probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind as an impact player for the Sterlington Panthers. But coach Lee Doty expects the 6-2, 185-pound senior tight end to emerge as an integralweapon this season.
“I think Hixson is going to have a big year for us,” Doty said. “He runs a sub-4.6 40, he has good hands, he’s very physical and works hard in the weight room.”
Given an expanded role during the playoffs, Street flourished after catching only two passes during the 2018 regular season. With the Panthers locked in a 14-14 tie with Church Point late in the first half of a Class 3A second round playoff tilt, Street snagged two touchdown passes during a 51-second span.
“They started putting in a few plays where they singled me out, and we just executed,” Street said.
Street’s first career touchdown came on a 15-yard catch.
“That was the best moment of my life — there’s nothing like it,” Street said. “When I scored, the crowd started screaming. It gave me chills.”
Capitalizing on an interception, the Panthers went back to Street on their next offensive play for a 16-yard TD strike. Sterlington had suddenly opened up a 28-14 lead in the waning seconds of the half, and would eventually pull out a 57-56 overtime thriller.
“The second touchdown was a screen,” Street said. “The guys on the offensive line had to do their job for me to score.”
A week later, Street caught a 16-yard pass to set up the Panthers’ first touchdown in a 13-12 quarterfinal victory over District 2-3A rival Union Parish.
“I ran a seam for 16 yards, got hit when I caught it and went down at the 4, and we scored on the next play,” Street recalled.
Sterlington eventually advanced to the state championship game, falling to Eunice 59-47. Street remembers the empty feeling of walking off the Superdome carpet all too well.
“Losing that game is definitely motivation for us, especially for the seniors,” said Street, the anguish evident in his voice. “We want to go back to the ’Dome and win it so bad. We’ll never be satisfied with the second place trophy. I didn’t talk for like 30 minutes after the game. I was sad and mad put together. I’m still kind of mad about it today. We are going to give it all we have this year.”
Not that Street or his teammates need to any reminders from the state championship game, but two photos from the postgame press conference accompanied with the words, “This is what losing feels like,” have been strategically placed at the weight room entrance. The images serve their purpose.
“I think that’s going to light our fire this year,” Street said of the pictures.
Street was part of the Panthers’ two state championship baseball teams as a freshman and junior, but missed out on the 2016 state football title.
“I didn’t play football my freshman year so I could focus on baseball,” Street said. “Coach Doty kept asking me when I was going to come out for football until I finally said, ‘All right, I’ll come play.’”
Juggling two sports and maintaining a 3.9 grade point average requires commitment, but Street makes a way.
“It’s a tough mix,” said Street, who just returned from Atlanta where he played for Team Louisiana. “I burn the candle at both ends, especially early in the summer when football workouts start, we have summer baseball at the school and I play extra baseball on the weekends. It’s insane.”
Meanwhile, Street continues to sharpen his pass-catching skills.
“We’re still sticking to the veer, but we’re working on spreading it out a little more,” Street said. “We want to be a little more balanced. We want to hit them with the run, and maybe come back with a play action pass.”
Street is confident the Panthers have the receivers to throw effectively.
“We lost Reid Handy, but we have Layton Rainbolt back,” Street said. “Harrison Womack is a first-year player, but he’s looked really good, so far. I think Ram Foster is going to step up.”
Doty would like to see the ball in Street’s hands more often.
“We want to be a big tight end team,” Doty said. “Hixson played really well for us last year. I think it’s time for him to be a difference-maker. He has the ability to run and catch.”
Street’s pass catching skills are actually a bonus in the veer. His first responsibility is to block, which he does quite well.
“Hixson’s a tight end, but he considers himself to be an offensive lineman first,” Doty said. “That’s a great attitude to have.”
While Hixson used his receiving skills to grab the spotlight during the playoffs, Doty noticed something else latter in the season.
“I saw some nastiness,” Doty said. “I saw a physicality that I wasn’t sure he was going to bring to the table. We like him.”
Between blocking, receiving and a selfless attitude, there’s a lot to like about Street’s game.