Character Kid

By Jim Riggs

The Jamestown football season ended on Nov. 16 with a loss to Aquinas in the Class AA Far West Regionals. The Red Raiders fell behind early in that game, but then staged a comeback that just fell short, thanks to the heroics of senior quarterback Jake Sisson.

That simply added to a season full of impressive statistics for Sisson and the team.

Coach Tom Langworthy witnessed every play of Sisson’s impressive season that led the Red Raiders to a 10-1 record, but he sometimes still has to pinch himself.

“When I go back to watch games it’s unbelievable to see how fast he could move the ball down the field and the different plays he could make both throwing and running it,” Langworthy said. “Some of the accuracy of his throws were the most impressive to me. He was a good runner as a junior and he had a pretty good arm. He put those balls on the money a lot. He made it easy for Zack (Panebianco), Steve (Carlson), Ben (Larson) and Brian (Park). Those guys can make difficult catches, but they didn’t have to a lot of the times with Jake because he would put that ball anywhere it needed to be. He was just so accurate with the ball, it was really impressive.”

Sisson completed 178-of-275 passes for a Western New York-record 3,184 yards, which ranks second in the state. He also had 33 touchdown passes.

But on the ground, Sisson had a team-high 732 yards and 24 touchdowns.

He was not only named the Western New York Player of the Year and winner of the Connolly Cup, but he was also named to the state Class AA first team.

And now he’s The Post-Journal Player of the Year.

So when did Langworthy have an indication it was going to be a special season for Sisson?

“I think the second game of the season against Kenmore West when he set the record,” he said about a road win in which Sisson threw for a Section 6 record of 508 yards, which is tied for fourth in the state. “He made such an impact on that game with 508 and yards throwing. The first week when we played against Niagara Falls he made some awesome throws, too, but the game got out of hand. But the game against Kenmore West was a close game for most of it.”

The Red Raiders trailed, 28-24, with 6:14 left in the third quarter. Thanks to Sisson’s passing, the Red Raiders were able to score 26 straight points for a 50-28 win.

“That was the week when we knew Jake was a serious passing threat,” Langworthy said. “That kind of set the tempo for the season because after that we would throw the ball more than we would run it.”

After the game, Sisson said, “I’m still shocked that I threw for 508 yards. I wasn’t even keeping track of the yards I was racking up, I just wanted to make sure we won the game.”

That performance also led to a change in strategy for the Red Raiders, who averaged 52.8 points per game.

“We figured we were going to score points, so we could take a few more risks on our defense and our special teams,” Langworthy said. “That was a nice luxury that Jakes brings to the table for us.”

But Sisson humbly took his storybook season casually.

“He’s a full package,” Langworthy said. “He would deflect the praise and the media attention, but he’d be the first person to point a finger at himself if there was something he thought that needed to be done better. I think that’s a tremendous indicator of his character.”

Sisson is finished playing football at Jamestown, but Langworthy thinks his presence will be felt for a while.

“The thing that’s nice about Jake is a lot of young football players want to be Jake Sisson,” he said. “I think he’s really brought a lot of excitement to football and I think you’ll see the ripple effect of that in the coming years because he made a lot of impact on a lot of young kids.”

And Langworthy might never coach another player like him.

“What he brings to the table is something I’ve never seen from a player in Western New York in my coaching career,” he said. “Whatever coach gets Jake is going to be a very, very happy fellow.”

That coach is Scott Browning of Edinboro University, where Sisson will continue his career.

Sisson arrived at Jamestown on the opening day of practice for the 2012 season after a whirlwind transfer from Bentonville High School in Arkansas, so Langworthy only had him at quarterback for two seasons. But the coach doesn’t lament not having him for three seasons. He takes the “glass-half-full” approach.

“I’m glad I got him for two years because I could have easily have had him for zero,” he said.