Texas A&M had been watching tiny Cayuga High School for quite some time, starting last football season. Though they had their eye on running back Traylon Shead, who eventually committed to Texas, they could not help but notice the play of do-everything athlete Malcome Kennedy.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Kennedy, who played receiver as a sophomore and junior, moved to quarterback for the Wildcats this year. It was mainly due to need, but he has thrived at the position. His impact has mainly been as a runner, where he has rushed for 1,922 yards and 21 touchdowns on a mere 163 carries. It has taken a lot of the attention off Shead as well.
"We've just been using each other to the team's advantage," Kennedy said of Shead and himself. "Everybody mostly likes to key on Traylon. Every time they do that, I come out with a big game. When they try to key on me, Traylon comes out with a big game.
"It's so much better this year. Even Traylon said it. He said that, with me being back there at quarterback, it takes a lot of weight off of his shoulders. We get pretty much even carries and it's really helped the team out a lot. I feel like the running game this year is way stronger that it was last year."
This past weekend, Cayuga defeated perennial power Mart in the regional finals. Playing against a team known for their speed, Kennedy says he and Shead still felt very confident heading into the contest. He backed up that confidence by rushing for 229 yards and three touchdowns.
"Our coaches told us all week about how fast they were and how it would be hard to get to the edges," Kennedy said. "Traylon and I, we are fast, but we more run with power. Most of the time, we're able to break tackles at the line of scrimmage.
"We get to the second level pretty well. We tend to go forward carrying the ball. We don't like to go backwards. That's a big part of our game, too. We've got to be content with five or six yard and that opens things up for us later to be able to bust long runs."
With four teams remaining in the Class 1A-Division II playoffs, they have a familiar feel to them. All four were in the same position last year. Cayuga plays Ganado while Stratford and Albany play in the other semifinal. Though the team is not looking past their game this weekend, they would love a rematch with Stratford, who defeated Cayuga 24-13 in the state championship a year ago.
"We're definitely not looking past Ganado," said Kennedy. "They're a very good team and we saw that last year when we played them. We wouldn't consider the possible game with Stratford as a revenge game or anything, though. I feel like we should have won last year.
"This year, if it happens, it will be a way better match-up. I think, in the back of their heads, they're probably a little worried about us. Last year, we had so many turnovers and we had the lead before the half. We kind of just blew the game ourselves with so many penalties and turnovers. We're a lot more focused this year. We have a stronger team and everybody is more united."
Kennedy is solid in his pledge to the Aggies and he was able to meet with area recruiter Randy Jordan last week.
"Coach Jordan came by the school last Monday," he said. "We just talked about possible all-star games that I could be playing in. He talked about the official visit. Everybody is taking theirs this coming weekend, but we're still in the playoffs so I can't be there. We also talked about all the stuff that was required for me to be registered at A&M."
A big question that A&M fans have is what side of the ball Kennedy will line up on when he arrives in Aggieland. He had a chance to talk to head coach Mike Sherman and offensive coordinator Nolan Cromwell about that very subject before the game against Texas on Thanksgiving night.
"I talked to coach Cromwell and coach Sherman when I was down there for the game," Kennedy said. "They've still got me pegged towards receiver. I'm hoping to play receiver, because that's where my mindset is. I feel like I can be the best fit with the ball in my hands and I think I'm proving that this year."
Cayuga plays Ganado at 5:00 p.m. Saturday at Woodforest Bank Stadium in The Woodlands. The winner will face the Stratford-Albany winner for the state title.