FORT VALLEY, Ga. — After a lengthy warmup session, Kentel Kendrick fired passes across the old gymnasium floor at Hunt Elementary School.
Pass after pass, Kendrick’s throws hummed toward his talented receivers. The ones that flew through their hands – or the very few off target – peppered the walls of the small gym.
The cold and wind forced Peach County inside for practice Wednesday, much like they’ll be today when they play Burke County for the GHSA Class AAA state championship game at the Georgia Dome.
Kendrick will have a little more room to operate than he had on the wooden floor in that gym, but the Trojans will count on him to make similar throws against the Bears’ aggressive defense.
“We expect big things from him,” receiver Debarriaus Miller said. “He’s got the arm. He makes plays. He’s had a great season.”
At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Kendrick certainly looks the part of a quarterback. However, he only received the chance to start this season after sophomore quarterback Greg Williams tore his anterior cruciate ligament during a preseason scrimmage against Northside.
Williams’ injury vaulted Kendrick, an unknown commodity who had some problems with authority, into a leadership role for a team expected to contend for the Region 2-AAA championship.
“I had to step up and be a leader for my team,” Kendrick said. “I had to grow up.”
Kendrick claims he had “attitude problems” that stunted his growth as a football player. He never poured himself into football like he should have. He quit the team before, and Peach County head coach Chad Campbell said peer pressure and listening to the wrong people prevented Kendrick from dedicating himself to football.
“Him admitting that he had some attitude problems is huge on his part,” Campbell said. “Kids deserve more credit than they get sometimes, and he knew what he needed to correct. He has responded favorably.”
The coaching staff eased Kendrick into the offense.
Since a two-interception performance in his second game, Kendrick has thrown only one interception. He has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in a game just once, and that came against West Laurens in the Trojans’ lone loss of the season.