LAKEWOOD RANCH -- It was Josh Hicks' call to make the switch from running back to defensive back.
But following his huge performance Friday during Palmetto's 43-7 win over Lakewood Ranch, the junior Tiger could hardly suppress a smile.
Who could blame him?
Hicks returned to his natural position and put on a sparkling display, chugging for 277 yards and three long touchdown runs on just 13 carries to help Palmetto, the top-ranked team in Class 5A, run its record to 5-0.
"It was real good to be back," Hicks said. "My O-line stepped up and made holes, and I was ready to get it."
Hicks rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year but twisted his ankle during this season's opener against Riverview. While Hicks recovered, Palmetto moved running back Cory
Crawford into his spot and watched Crawford lead the area in rushing during the season's first four games.
Knowing the Tigers' defense lost eight starters off last year's final four team, Hicks offered to move to the other side of the ball while Crawford remained at running back. But as a banged-up Crawford watched the game from the sideline Friday, Hicks made a seamless return to Palmetto's backfield.
"Josh was ready; Josh was healthy," said coach Dave Marino. "You saw that bounce in his step (Friday)."
The Mustangs (3-2) took the lead when Wanley Desir picked off Palmetto's Chris Tuten and returned it five yards for a touchdown with 4:21 left in the first quarter.
Palmetto squared the game on Leon Gilbert's 15-yard run in the second, and that's when Hicks took over, running for touchdowns of 65 and 87 yards during the Tigers' 28-point second quarter.
A 58-yard touchdown run in the fourth put an impressive cap on his night.
Marino was just as proud of his offensive line, however, which was playing without seniors Kelvin Stuckey and Joe Bundrage.
"That's where we're a little bit young and a little bit inexperienced," Marino said. "We're really happy for our offensive line to step up and open those holes for Josh."
Marino is hoping to have Crawford back for next week's Class 5A-District 10 game against Bayshore.
"It's going to be two-headed monster all season," Marino said of using Crawford and Hicks at running back. "It's a long road, it's a long season. Into December -- that's our goal, that's where we want to get to."
Gilbert scored twice, and Shaq Harris returned a punt 52 yards for a touchdown.
Chris Pearcey had 142 yards rushing for the Mustangs, who head to Tarpon Spring for a Class 6A-District 7 game next week.