Jamestown's Jake Sisson had a game to remember last Saturday at Kenmore West. The senior quarterback completed 21-of-40 passes for 508 yards and six touchdowns. The 508 yards is a Western New York record and ranks fourth in the state.
"I'm still shocked that I threw for 508 yards," Sisson said earlier this week. "I wasn't even keeping track of the yards I was racking up, I just wanted to make sure we won the game."
The Red Raiders did win the game to remain undefeated and it was the team's 10th victory with Sisson calling the signals beginning last season. And last night was the 11th (see story at left).
P-J PHOTO BY JIM RIGGS
But just the fact that Sisson is playing for James-town might be more remarkable than his passing record. In a matter of hours last August, he became a Red Raider.
Sisson was an eighth-grader at Southwestern Central School in 2010 when his family moved to Bentonville, Ark., where his father, George, took a position with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals minor league baseball team. But last summer, he interviewed for, and accepted, a coaching position at Jamestown Community College and the process was moved up so his son could arrive in time to start football practice with the Red Raiders.
"My dad did everything to make sure that I could actually start the first game and the scrimmage," Sisson said. "That's what I wanted to do. I didn't want to have to sit out any specific days because I didn't have enough practices in because of moving."
In order to do that, Sisson took a flight from Arkansas at 5:30 a.m. on the Sunday before Jamestown football practice began and arrived at the Buffalo airport on Monday at 12:30 a.m. He took a physical at 7:30 a.m. and then attended the opening practice at 8:30 a.m.
"It was pretty quick, but I'd been practicing all summer with the Bentonville (High School) team and the offenses are pretty similar," Sisson said. "They run the spread offense out of the pistol, we run the spread offense out of the (shot) gun."
Jamestown coach Tom Langworthy admitted it was pretty amazing.
''Those are the kind of commitments that make players like Jake,'' he said. ''Yes, he is talented, but the level of hard work and commitment, not only from him but from his family, makes a huge difference and that really got my attention.''
The Jamestown offense was the only thing Sisson was familiar with because he knew none of the coaches or the players.
"I only knew them (some of the players) from a little bit of sports I played," he said recalling his younger days at Southwestern. "The only guy I might have actually known was Zack Panebianco because we used to play each other in Upwards Basketball back when we were kids."
And it was the same for Langworthy when it came to his new player.
''All I knew was that he was coming in from Arkansas, his family was moving and that's really about all I knew about him,'' he said. ''Even his first couple of days (at practice) it took us a while to figure out what he was capable of, but as he warmed up and learned our system it was pretty clear that he was a special player.''
When did he know that for sure?
''For me, I would say it was the third day (of practice),'' Langworthy said. ''The first day he was just learning and the second day he got better, but you couldn't still tell completely. Then on the third day I thought he's really good and has a lot of room to grow. That is when we really knew.''
The previous season, Sisson was the third-string quarterback for Bentonville, which lost in the Arkansas state championship game. In 2012 he would have been the backup, so did he have any second thoughts about coming to Jamestown where his status would be up in the air on a team that went 8-2 and lost in the sectional championship game?
"It really didn't matter to me too much," Sisson said. "When you move you're always going to have a group of friends you're going to miss. But also, moving creates new opportunities to make new friends which I did in the first few weeks of school."
And why did he decide to play at Jamestown instead of his former school, Southwestern?
"(Southwestern) being Class C and me going to a school in Bentonville with 1,000-plus kids per graduation class, I wanted to stay up in the higher ranks for sports," Sisson said. "Jamestown is Double A, which is the highest ranking in the state, and that's where I wanted to go, especially for football purposes."
And his purpose in his first preseason with the Red Raiders was to earn a starting berth.
"That was my goal, I was coming up here to try to earn a spot to start on the team," Sisson said. "Anywhere, to be honest. I would have started at free safety if they wanted me to."
But he ended up as the starting quarterback.
"I felt I had a good camp and I worked hard to earn that spot," Sisson said. "I was a little bit intimidated knowing that there was a kid that had been starting for a while there. I worked hard and got the starting job and eventually we all formed together and worked as a tight-knit group."
And he depended on that group in his opening game as a Red Raider.
"Every single bone in my body was shaking I was so nervous," Sisson recalled. "But my teammates all had confidence in me and they helped me through that first game."
Langworthy said, ''What he did was earn the respect through his actions.''
His actions led the Red Raiders to another 8-2 season that ended in the sectional title game. And it has continued this season with a 3-0 start and a Western New York passing record.
"I wanted to make sure I came out and got the starting job and I did,'' Sisson said looking back to August of 2012. ''I just wanted to have a good junior season, making it all the way to Section 6 finals. Coming out senior season (this year), I wanted to start hot, but I didn't think I would start that hot."
Bentonville returned to the Arkansas state title game last season, but Sisson has no regrets about his decision to come to Jamestown.
"No regrets at all,'' he said. ''It's kind of like transferring in college. If one college isn't a fit for you, you can go to a different college that can wind up being a better fit. It's like me moving from Bentonville to Jamestown, Jamestown was just a better-fitting team for me to play on."
Last year when told that Sisson was coming to Jamestown, the Bentonville coach was disappointed but said, ''Jamestown's getting a good one.''
There is no question about that.