Ryan senior Jahlil Sanders didn’t waste time making a first impression, throwing for 11 touchdowns and running for two more in just four games.
Jahlil Sanders didn’t waste a lot of time in making a good first impression.
Sanders, a senior at Archbishop Ryan High School, arrived at the school at the start of his junior year, but he started the season as a backup quarterback.
A few games into the season, Sanders was moved into the starting lineup. It was just in time for the Raiders’ annual game against Father Judge, which is arguably the most important game of the year for both teams.
It was the perfect place for Sanders to shine.
“I didn’t know about the rivalry too much because I went to West Catholic my first two years and they didn’t have a rival or anything like that,” said Sanders, who grew up in Frankford and now lives in Juniata. “It was so much fun. I knew how big it was when I was stretching and I saw everyone come in. Then when we were playing, I knew how big of a game it was. It was so much fun playing in that kind of game.”
It was even more fun when Sanders exploded for 225 yards of offense, including more than 150 yards on the ground, as the Raiders defeated the Crusaders.
“Winning a game like that in my first varsity start at quarterback was great,” Sanders said. “I played defense before, but I never started at quarterback. It was really exciting. The fans wanted to win so bad.”
It’s safe to say this year, Ryan supporters are even happier with how things are going. And Sanders is a huge reason for the success.
The Raiders are 4–0 on the young season and have been scoring at an incredible clip. They put up 38 points against Bartram, 41 against Frankford and Interboro and on Saturday outscored Chester 45–30. On the year, they’ve outscored foes 125–74, and Sanders has been leading the charge.
According to tedsilary.com, Sanders leads the team in rushing with 273 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, but his real damages has come with his arm.
Sanders has thrown for nearly 700 yards and 11 touchdowns through four games. His biggest game was against Interboro, when he went for 263 yards with five scoring strikes.
His top weapon has been Tyreek Chappell, who has more than 400 yards and eight touchdowns, but he’s done a good job of spreading the ball around, hitting at least four receivers in every game thus far.
“I think I get a lot of credit, but it’s the rest of the team that does a lot of the work,” Sanders said. “There are games where I’ll throw a pass for 15 or 20 yards and they’ll catch it and take it 50 yards. That goes down as a 50-yard pass. I just try and get them the ball and let them do whatever they can do.
“We’ve had good blocking, too. And the defense has been playing great. We’ve been a good team, that’s why we’ve been winning games and scoring (so many points).”
Sanders came into last season an athlete who would play anywhere the coaches needed him. And he still has that attitude, but after he was inserted into the lineup at quarterback, he was penciled in at the position for the rest of the year.
That experience is paying dividends this year.
“It helped a lot last year because we had a good team,” Sanders said. “I learned a lot from (former starter-turned-wideout) Chris Reed. He really helped me. He knew a lot and he helped me a lot. The whole team really helped me when I got in.”
Now this year, it’s his turn to be the leader.
Because he’s the quarterback, Sanders is going to be looked to for leadership, but Sanders wants to be the guy everyone can turn to when they need something.
“I think being a leader is really important, especially for a quarterback,” Sanders said. “It’s not a hard job, everybody does what they’re supposed to do, but if they need something, I’ll be there.”
Even if that means playing a different position.
“When they need me, especially late in the game, I’ll play a little defensive back,” Sanders said. “I played there last year in the beginning of the year but I don’t play much anymore because they don’t want me getting hurt.
“I even went in during the second quarter of one game. I like playing defense. I’ll play anywhere. I’m a quarterback, that’s my favorite position, but I’ll play anywhere.”
He is keeping that attitude toward college, but ideally he’ll be under center at the next level. He’s also is eyeing a possible career as a physical therapist.
“I think that would be good because I like to be around athletes and I like to help people,” Sanders said.
Now he just wants to keep helping the Raiders ride this winning streak as long as they can. And things get much tougher from here out.
Ryan travels to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy for a nonleague game on Saturday before it starts Catholic League Red Division play. Its opener is against Judge, followed by games against Wood, La Salle, Roman and St. Joe’s Prep.
The competition will be better, but Sanders thinks his troops are ready for it.
“The Catholic League is so tough, it’s like nothing else,” Sanders said. “We’re ready, though. We worked really hard and we’re playing great as a team. I think we could surprise people. It will be tough, but we’re ready.”