In February, Cayuga's Malcome Kennedy plans to sign with Texas A&M and someday line up at receiver in Aggieland.
So, his senior season has presented him the perfect opportunity to hone his ball-catching skills and prepare for big-time college football.
Right? Instead, though, Kennedy has been throwing all the passes.
In a move made for the betterment of the team, Kennedy was supplanted from receiver and planted behind center prior to the season.
The decision came easily for Cayuga head coach Tommy Allison, whose only challenge was convincing Kennedy that everyone would benefit.
"We knew that when the ball was in his hands he could do good things with it," Allison said Tuesday. "The main thing was getting him convinced. When we told him how it was the best for the team, he was sold."
Turns out, that sell has helped the Wildcats reach the Class 1A Division II semifinals for the second straight season. Cayuga (12-1) meets Ganado (9-4) on Saturday in Shenandoah in a rematch of last year's round of four.
Kennedy, who threw a pair of touchdowns on receiver passes last year, has the best arm on the team and is one of the state's top athletes. Those qualities combine to make him a gifted dual-threat quarterback, which teams ride to state titles year after year.
At first, though, Kennedy was lukewarm to the idea of departing a position he hopes to earn a paycheck at someday. The selfless teammate in him, however, trumped that reaction.
"At first I was upset because I had worked so hard to be a receiver," Kennedy said. "But I'm the guy getting the ball first every play, so I told myself to make the most out of that. ... it made me excited to play quarterback and I embraced the role."
While helping Cayuga reach the state finals for the first time in school history, Kennedy caught 47 passes for 762 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He earned second-team all-state honors by the Texas Sports Writers Association.
The groundwork had been set for Kennedy to be one of the state's most electrifying receivers in 2009, but graduation (Broc January) left a hole at perhaps the most important post on the field. And about a month before two-a-days began, Kennedy's move to signal caller became official.
Without a doubt, there have been growing pains. In the season opener, Kennedy took the top-ranked Wildcats into Frankston's Jeff and Opal Austin Stadium and returned home with a shocking 33-26 loss.
Yet without a doubt, the positives have heavily outweighed the negatives. During the regular season, Kennedy completed 67 of 124 yards for 1,138 yards and 16 touchdowns, plus ran the ball 97 times for 1,105 yards and 12 TDs.
Such numbers have been contributed to the offense during the postseason too, evidenced by his 207 yards rushing and four touchdowns in the quarterfinals last weekend. Kennedy guided Cayuga past fellow 2008 state finalist Mart, 42-28.
"For him to do what he's done, in four months, is pretty impressive," Allison said. "This is a brand new position to him. The techniques of it, how to take a snap and how to read defenses and how to make throws, it was something he had never done before."
Whether at quarterback or receiver, Kennedy wants to complete his high school career with a state title. He's only two wins away.
"If somebody told me I would have been the quarterback for a team going to the state championship, I would have never believed them," Kennedy said. "But as long as we are going to the state championship and I'm a senior about to get a ring, that's all I'm worried about."
The winner between Cayuga and Ganado will meet either Stratford or Albany in the state final. Stratford (11-2), which beat Cayuga in last year's final, and Albany (14-0) are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Friday in Wolfforth.
SHANE STARK, Tyler Morning Telegraph, Staff Writer