Editor’s note: The Robesonian’s 32-member all-county football team will be announced Dec. 15.
ST. PAULS — For someone accused by many of shying away from contact much of his career, Malik Livingston didn’t seem to mind crashing to the turf this fall as a senior at St. Pauls.
He was hit more than any other passer in the area in a run-heavy offense by design which focuses on the quarterback’s ability to read the defensive end and make a play. The receiver-turned-signal caller who replaced all-county standout Kane Banner with no previous experience under center gave the Bulldogs a legitimate dual-threat from the pocket and on the run.
“He’s always been real good at making people miss and not giving them much of target to hit,” St. Pauls coach Trey Sasser said. “Malik doesn’t run straight up. He got dinged up a bit on his shoulder late in the season, but overall did a great job avoiding direct contact considering what we asked him to do.
“We wouldn’t have won as many games as we did without him.”
Livingston threw for 1,423 yards, rushed for 1,092 and accounted for 24 touchdowns in leading the Bulldogs to a third-place finish in the Three Rivers Conference and a berth in the state playoffs.
For his efforts, he’s been named The Robesonian’s 2013 Offensive Player of the Year, the second straight Bulldog to achieve the feat after Shawn Williams’ 2,000-yard campaign last season.
“This award means a lot because the coaches had enough faith in me to get the job done when most people said I couldn’t,” Livingston said.
The playmaker was at his best in wins over area rivals Red Springs, Fairmont and South Robeson, performances that included a memorable 376- total yard, three-score outing in the league’s most exciting game of the year with the previously unbeaten Golden Tornadoes on Sept. 27.
The Bulldogs also beat co-champion South Columbus with Livingston out front before a surprising loss at East Columbus derailed title hopes.
Livingston’s run-pass ability kept defenses honest and paved the way for 14 rushing touchdowns from St. Pauls tailback Daymien McMillan — the same number tallied by Whiteville’s Terrin Manning, the conference player of the year. Late in the season, offensive coordinator Scott Barbour moved wideout Chuck Walters to the backfield as an additional threat and the Bulldogs’ running game became more potent.
Livingston made everything click.
“As far as throwing the ball and reading different people in our read option schemes, it becomes more natural the longer that you do it,” Sasser said. “If he had been playing that position for two or three more years, Malik would’ve had that much more of a special season.”
Livingston’s 11 rushing touchdowns is the third-highest total for a county quarterback over the last decade. Only Lumberton’s Marquez North (12 in 2010) and Red Springs’ Blake Greene (12 in 2012) had more.
“We knew what type of athlete he was as a wide receiver, but as far as numbers, I didn’t know what to expect from him at quarterback,” Sasser said. “Since we rely on our quarterback to run, the possibility was certainly there for 1,000 yards rushing and double-digit touchdowns.”
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.