Ryan’s Jefferson enjoys starring role in backfield

Senior Jason Jefferson has been playing running back his whole life. This year, he’s proven why.

Ryan’s Jason Jefferson ran all over George Washington last year on Thanksgiving. He has one final game as a Raider versus the Eagles. JOE MASON / TIMES PHOTO

Jason Jefferson came into his senior year with a lot of momentum.

Jefferson, a senior running back on the Archbishop Ryan High School football team, finished his junior year off in style, rushing for 75 yards and three touchdowns in the Raiders’ win on Thanksgiving over George Washington.

While Jefferson was a key contributor on defense, that was his first game as a starting tailback, the first time in his varsity career he saw double-digit carries, and he came through with a gem.

That not only showed his coaches what he could do, it showed him exactly what he was capable of.

“I’ve been playing running back my whole life, since I was 5,” said Jefferson, who lives in Rhawnhurst. “That was a good game for me because we won and I played well. It was fun. It made me look forward to this year.”

Jefferson didn’t disappoint.

This year, he took over as the featured back right from the start of the season, and thus far, he’s accounted for about 600 yards of offense and scored nine touchdowns, including two in the Raiders’ win over Carroll in the first round of the Catholic League AAAAA playoffs. The win sent the Raiders to the championship tilt.

Ryan fell to Archbishop Wood, 48–0, on Friday night in a game that was 26 degrees when the ball was kicked off at William Tennent.

This was the fourth straight year the Vikings defeated the Raiders in the championship, and that’s a positive for the Raiders. Wood is one of the best teams in the area, and has won state championships in two of the past three years.

Once again this year, the Vikings are favored to at least make it to Hershey. In fact, they are ranked in the top 15 in the national Catholic School poll.

Jeferson wasn’t happy with the loss, but he was happy with the way his team hung in against one of the best.

“I love playing against teams like Wood because they’re great competition and that’s how you get better,” Jefferson said. “I don’t like losing. Nobody does. But I’m happy we gave it our all. I think we could have made some plays, we could have done some things different, but they’re really good.

“I don’t think we played the way we wanted to play, but it wasn’t effort. We played hard. We were tough.”

Jefferson was Ryan’s top offensive weapon, and he was also a tough defender, making plays at defensive end. But his biggest contribution to the team could be as a leader.

Prior to the game, he was shouting to his teammates in an effort to pump them up, and when the Vikings came up with a big play, he made sure to encourage his teammates to stay positive.

“I’ve always been a leader, but this year I was more vocal,” Jefferson said. “This is my senior year. I wanted to make sure I took that step to become a leader.”

He’s done that and more, according to his coach, Frank McArdle.

“He’s a great football player who plays hard, and even more than that, he’s a good person,” McArdle said. “He has done a lot of good things for us this year.”

Last week, he stepped up in his coach’s absence.

McArdle and his wife Melissa welcomed their first child, Frank McArdle VI. Due to his commitments with his family, McArdle missed a practice this week, so Jefferson made sure to keep the team focused.

“We knew he was very busy, but we made sure to have practice as normal,” Jefferson said. “It was very emotional for all of us because we love him. The seniors made sure everyone was practicing hard just like coach was here. He was busy, but we had a job to do.”

The coach appreciates it.

“I really didn’t expect everything to be so cool, it was just so great,” McArdle said. “Ryan has been so supportive of everything, the school and the team. And the players have been great. It’s very exciting and it’s even better than I thought it would be.”

While McArdle gets acclimated to answering to dad, Jefferson will be busy answering to colleges. He hopes to find a school where he can continue his career, ideally at running back, though he’s open to playing defense.

“I want to major in either business or criminal justice,” Jefferson said. “I think I’d like to be a detective. That’s my goal, but I’m still figuring things out. I really want to play college football.”

And when his schedule permits, he’ll stop home and watch his younger teammates.

Jefferson has one more chance to put on a Ryan uniform on Thanksgiving, and he hopes he’s able to put his team on the path to success for 2018.

“They’re going to be really good next year,” Jefferson said. “I’m excited for them. They’re good, there’s a lot of good players. I’ll be back to watch them, and I know they’ll be very good.”