Last season, in just his second game as a high school quarterback, Patuxent's Delonte Janey dropped back to pass and did what came naturally to him -- looked deep for the big play. As Janey released the ball, Westlake's Marcus Lemon hit him so hard that Lemon did what Janey teammates could never do -- silence him.
"I got back to the huddle, and I couldn't say anything," said Janey, a senior. "I couldn't talk. I made motions [to signal the next play], and [teammate] Gary Wynn told the rest of the guys what it was.
"My chest hurt for the next four days."
Welcome to varsity football, kid.
For much of his childhood, Janey could pick up any ball and quickly become the best player on the field. It didn't matter whether the game was football, basketball or baseball. Janey's natural athleticism made him one of the best athletes in Southern Maryland.
But when he took over Patuxent's offense last season, Janey got a rude awakening.
Opponents "showed me that I'm not the only athlete on the field," said Janey, who passed for 1,010 yards and nine touchdowns. "There are a lot of other athletes just as good out there. Defensive linemen are just as fast as me."
Janey struggled with that much of last season, even as he led an offense that recovered from a 0-3 start by averaging nearly 40 points per game in six straight victories. As he did when he played in youth leagues, Janey's first instinct was to look for the big play downfield. He knew his arm would get the ball there. It was just a matter whether his receiver could catch it.
What Janey has learned in the offseason is that a big play could come off shorter plays, such as the screen pass. Receivers at the varsity level are good enough to make those plays.
"His biggest thing is that he has to trust that if he puts the ball in the hands of his receivers, they can make a big play," Patuxent Coach Steve Crounse said. "He's always been expected to make the big plays and now we're trusting him to learn that a big play can come from a small play. We think there are a lot of kids who can make big plays for us."