MOUNT ZION — In the moment, Christian Keyhea knows exactly what he's done. It happened at least twice at Mount Zion's 7-on-7 camps Monday evening.

Keyhea, a sophomore receiver for the Braves, starts at the line of scrimmage and dashes forward as the ball is snapped. That's typical, of course, of all receivers. Not long after, though, he's come to the realization that he left is defender in the dust — behind him and struggling to make up ground.

First and foremost, his mind is on catching the pass from Ashton Summers that led to a few touchdowns on Monday. But there's a feeling bubbling to the forefront of his mind.

“A little cocky, but it’s great, actually," Keyhea said with a smile.

He's 6-feet tall, has played exactly zero varsity football games but excelled in freshmen and junior varsity games and enjoyed a fast start to his high school track career in the spring before a hamstring injury shut him down late in the season. There's no secret that speed is his finest asset, but he plucked balls out of the clear, blue sky on Monday and is working on his route running.

His expectations are simple.

“Be a good player," Keyhea said. "Win a lot of games. Make it far in the playoffs. That’s it."

He'll be a part of the Braves' offense that returns most of its skill players in three other receivers — Jayse Booker, Bryson Bartels and Drew London — starting quarterback Ashton Summers and star running back Sage Davis. Mount Zion coach Patrick Etherton has seen Keyhea come up through the JFL system, where Keyhea acknowledges that he "tore it up." He dressed varsity last season, but didn't play. Instead he played in every freshman and junior varsity game. He lined up at quarterback, receiver, defensive back and wherever he was directed. 

“He’ll be a big factor on our offense this year," Summers said. "He’s another weapon added to our receiving corp. We have three guys coming back plus him. It’s almost like he started last year it feels like. I’m looking forward to it."

Since then, Keyhea grown about four inches and 15 pounds. His summer has been good. On Monday he dove in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, then promptly held the ball straight upwards as if to say, "Got it."

"We know from track and JFL that he’s a fast kid," Etherton said. "For us, it’s going to be how he can adjust to coverages and adjust to the game and become a full all-around wide receiver. Speed-wise, he’s talented, he’s got hands, he does things the right way and has good size.

“It should be exciting to see how he develops throughout the year."

Summers knows that it's a tall task in finding a way to overthrow Keyhea.

“He’s got a good build, great speed and his hands are unbelievable," Summers said. “I just throw the ball 50 yards and let him run under it."

Something else happened for Keyhea since the end of last football season: He's started to hear about how talented he his and people have raved to him about his potential. He knew what he needed to do if he wanted to prove people right. More of a focus went into getting into the weight room and making himself a better receiver.

“When a lot of people start to tell you that you’ve got potential it’s like, ‘OK, I’ve got to start working harder,'" Keyhea said.

Keyhea has been able to come along at his own pace. He wasn't thrown into the fire of the Apollo Conference too early and won't have to step onto the field Week 1 at Highland as the team's No. 1 receiving option. He'll be able to lean on Booker, Bartels, London, Davis and Summers for advice. Keyhea has learned to pick his head up after a dropped pass, no longer dwelling on a miscue.

When he puts everything together, the coaches know exactly where he'll be.

"He doesn't know how good he's going to be," assistant coach Garrett Knock said. 

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Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25


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