When Huntington's starting quarterback moved out of state right before the start of the season last year, head coach Rod Foppe looked to Aldon Kelly to fill the void.
Kelly knew he'd have to learn things in a hurry, but even he didn't know how quickly he'd get thrown into his first varsity season.
In Huntington's season opener at East Texas power Marshall, Kelly was trying to hit Chance Chambers on a screen pass, but he never got the football to him. A large linebacker sent him to the ground instead. "When I was laying there, I was scared," said Kelly, who was then only a sophomore. "It made me feel like, 'Am I ready for this?'" With time, Kelly was ready. While the 5-foot-10, 180-pound quarterback carried his team through more downs than ups last season, he's glad he never gave up. By the fifth game against Peabody, he finally felt more comfortable. "It's a learning experience, but you got to do what you got to do sometimes," said Kelly, who combined for more than 300 yards against Peabody. "Nothing is going to stop me from doing what I want to do." At first, all Kelly wanted to do is play basketball. The Huntington guard started playing the sport in fifth grade and didn't try football until the eighth grade. Familiar family ties kept Kelly interested in football. His father -- Aldon Sr. -- played mainly strong safety at Louisiana Tech. His uncle -- Thatcher Kelly -- was an All-State quarterback at Green Oaks High School. Aldon Jr. said his father, now an assistant principal at North Caddo, helped him adjust to his new role. When Aldon Sr. was a football coach at Green Oaks, his son was always with him. "He did all the drills, sometimes better than my players did," Aldon, Sr. said with a laugh. "He's been around it all his life. He's knowledgeable about the game. He's quicker and stronger. I'm just hoping he can just catch on and it clicks this year." The younger Kelly's decision-making has been one of his biggest improvements. He said it has allowed him to make better reads and simplify his passes. Kelly, who has the highest GPA on the football team (3.7), also wants to try to air it out more this season. If he wants to be more successful with the longer passes, he knows he'll need better protection up front. Kelly said he's also developed a better chemistry with his receivers, which include Chambers, an All-District 1-4A selection, and Josh Hunt, who is coming back from an offseason knee injury. "He's smarter on the field now," Chambers said. "He's watched a lot of film. The biggest advice I tell him is to stay focused. Even though I'm a senior, he's the quarterback." What will make this season different than last season? Kelly said effort and leadership. "When I look at film from last season, there were some plays everyone took off," Kelly said. "We need to play better." Kelly will look to play better in a quarterback system that still includes at least a three-man rotation. "We have a few quarterbacks that are pretty decent," Kelly said. "As long as we get it done, it's no problem at all." For Kelly, getting it done is a playoff appearance. Huntington's 2012 season opener -- Evangel -- sure isn't any easier than it was in 2011, but Kelly is already what he wasn't last year -- prepared. "My confidence is real high now," he said. "I'm a junior now, so I know what's going on." Connect with Kelly Morris on Twitter at @Kelly_Mo.