Safety valve: Sanders matures into key member of Bruin defense

Matt Hamilton/Daily Citizen-News

NW17 indicates a safety after NW scored when the Lafayette snapper snapped the ball over the punters head and out the back of the end zone.

Editor's note: This story is featured in the Daily Citizen-News' weekly high school football Touchdown! section. Grab an issue in papers on Fridays during football season, or stop by our office for a copy.

TUNNEL HILL -- Jacob Sanders' career as a Northwest Whitfield High School football player has been about change.

Sanders began as a freshman quarterback on the sub-varsity teams wearing the No. 6 jersey. His senior season culminated as a starting safety wearing the No. 17 jersey.

In addition to the position and number changes, Northwest coach Josh Robinson said Sanders has prospered as a young adult on and off the football field.

"He's matured a lot is what I would say," Robinson said. "He's gone through some growth issues in high school and every year he's gotten better. He had a really good senior year and has been really consistent for us, and we needed that knowing we had a young guy at safety next to him. His focus and ability to do the things he did the previous year but do them better allowed us to spend more time focusing on younger guys that needed more of our attention."

Growing up playing football, Sanders preferred quarterback because he liked having the ball "because you pretty much control what's going on." But after moving to defense for his junior year, Sanders said he has found a home.

"It's similar because you call the defensive plays and you're looking, scanning the field," said Sanders, comparing quarterback to safety. "You've got to have good vision. At first it was kind of hard just going strictly to defense but I like it. Now that I play defense, I'd rather play it. I like hitting people instead of getting hit."

Northwest's regular season ended this past Friday night with a 30-22 loss to Heritage. A win would have given the Bruin's it first region title since 2000. Winning that elusive title was a goal for many of the seniors, including Sanders.

Tonight, Northwest (7-3, 4-2 in Region 6-4A) kicks off the first round of the state playoffs with a visit to Oconee County (9-1, 4-1 in Region 8-4A), which is near Athens.

"I didn't go like we wanted," Sanders said. "We wanted to win region. Things happen and you've got to move forward. We've got a game to focus on and we've just go to concentrate on that. As a defense, as a team, as a whole, we've just developed as the season has gone on."

After high school, Sanders said he would like to play college football. If that doesn't happen, Sanders said he may join the Army.

"They've been talking to me since the summer," Sanders said. "They (local Army recruiters) came and we did a workout with them. They started talking to me and it really interested me."

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