TAYLORSVILLE — Watch Ty Keyes dance.
Notice his hips as they move side to side, the size-14 feet he hasn’t grown into yet navigating the pocket. Get lost in the quick steps he takes as he avoids one sack, then another, then another, all the while holding his gaze downfield.
Keyes has ended the dance, and if you look away, you’ll miss something. He breaks the pocket, sprints to his right and zips a pass to his receiver on the sideline. First down, Taylorsville.
A routine play for the 16-year-old whose mother doesn’t yet trust him to drive.
“We’ve gotten spoiled,” head coach Mitch Evans said.
Keyes finished 10th in the country in passing yards as a freshman last year with 4,586 — 439 more than JT Daniels, who’s now starting at USC. Keyes threw 45 touchdowns and rushed for another eight. Of the top-50 passers in the country, Keyes was the only underclassman.
Three years ago, he played running back.
After a seventh grade practice one day, Evans, at the time the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, saw Keyes throwing and asked if he played quarterback. Keyes said no, someone else does.
“You’re going to play quarterback,” Evans said.
When his freshman season started, Taylorsville’s coaches asked Keyes to manage the offense. The 2A Tartars had a handful of talented seniors at the skill positions. Keyes needed to put the ball in their hands and avoid turnovers.
Keyes played all right through the first five games of the season — he surpassed 300 yards passing three times — and Taylorsville started 5-0. Then the Tartars lost, 26-7, at Perry Central.
The following week against Bay Springs, Taylorsville trailed by one point with no timeouts and less than two minutes on the clock. Keyes drove the team downfield, completed a pass on fourth-and-7 from Bay Springs’ 40-yard line, and the Tartars kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired.
Taylorsville focused its offense on Keyes the rest of the season. He threw three touchdowns and 403 yards against Lumberton. He scored five touchdowns in the state semifinals. He tossed another 336 yards and three touchdowns against Winona as Taylorsville won its first state title in 15 years.