Smyrna’s Sanchez hopes he’s saved his best for last

Smyrna High QB Aidan Sanchez was named second-team All-State last season after throwing for 250.2 yards per game. Delaware State News file photos

SMYRNA — The virtual meeting dragged on for hours.

But Aidan Sanchez and his friend, Devin Smith, stuck it out, waiting to hear if the state Board of Education would vote to allow sports this fall.

Then finally, finally, the two Smyrna High football players heard that the motion to approve fall sports had been approved.

“When I heard it, I was jumping around the room,” Sanchez remembered. “We were jumping around the room ecstatic when we heard the news we were going to play. … We were running around the house all crazy.”

That news sprung the whole world of football back open for Sanchez. And that world looks like a pretty good place right now for the Smyrna High senior quarterback.

After two years as a starter — and surviving some ups and downs — the Eagles think Sanchez is ready to come into his own this fall.

If he can do that, he might also give himself the chance to fulfill his dream of playing in college.

“He’s been through a lot of adversity,” said Smith, a senior wide receiver. “Just with the quarterback role at Smyrna, you went from Nolan (Henderson) to Isaiah (Wilson). Aidan, he had a lot to live up to.

“But I feel as though everybody is definitely going to know his name this year. … I think this is going to be his best year.”

A season ago, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Sanchez made second-team All-State after throwing for 250.2 yards per game, tossing 23 touchdown passes with 11 interceptions. He also proved he was mobile, running for 302 yards and two more TDs.

Nothing beats experience, though.

“As he’s continued to physically mature, your skill set gets sharper, the velocity of the ball gets better,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy. “Along with his mechanics and his footwork, you can see that there’s a big difference when the ball comes out of his hand now than last year.”

Judy said that Sanchez has grown as a person, too — growth that can only come when you’ve dealt with failure as well as success.
“The quarterback has to be rock-solid and unshakable from the critical side of things,” said Judy. “Because you’re always going to be criticized — you’re always going to be criticized. It’s a very popular position.”

Despite going 9-3 last fall, Sanchez and the Eagles walked away from the season with their share of regrets.

After winning nine games in a row, Smyrna ended the year with a 48-28 loss to rival Middletown in the DIAA Division I state semifinals. The contest didn’t get out of hand until the final eight minutes.

Sanchez completed only 6-of-9 passes for 85 yards. He knows he could have played better.

“It was hard,” said Sanchez. “Weeks after, you’re still thinking about that game. It just pushes us to make sure we never get put in that position again — ever.

“We don’t want to get all that confidence rolling and then fall on our face. We want to make sure we finish — and that will be the biggest thing this year.”

The 17-year-old would like to think he’s come a long way since his freshman year.

There’s some video of one of the first times the youngster tried to throw a deep ball in practice in high school. He said the pass went only about 22 yards.

“I watch the film and it’s crazy, watching the form change,” said Sanchez.

From being the backup QB on the Eagles’ Division I state championship team in 2017, Sanchez has also endured a 3-6 season as a sophomore starter. He threw for only 138.4 yards per game with 14 touchdowns against seven interceptions that fall.

“I’ve been through everything,” said Sanchez. “I’ve been through the wins, I’ve been through when nobody was here, I’ve been through when everybody said we weren’t good. … It’s nice to look back and say I really have changed.”

Judy said it’s amazing how detailed college recruiting has gotten when it comes to quarterbacks.

Because they take so few, he said college coaches want to know everything they can about a potential scholarship QB. They don’t want to just see a recruit’s best plays, they want to see the video of games his team lost, as well.

“They know, beyond a reasonable doubt, what they’re getting with the quarterback,” said Judy. “Which makes it a tough position.”
That being said, Judy said recruiters like what they see in Sanchez.

“I think he’s got a good shot of landing on somebody’s roster,” said Judy.

Like a lot of kids, Sanchez grew up dreaming of playing football in college.

He knows he’s still got a lot to prove and the coronavirus pandemic has changed the whole process. He also wants to show he can be a leader on a team that graduated 20 seniors from last year’s squad.

Still, his college dreams don’t feel so far out of reach any more.

“There’s definitely times I wish I could wake up and be 6-4,” said Sanchez. “I wish I could gain 20 pounds overnight. But I know that all comes with hard work. I’m determined to do whatever it takes to play college football — at whatever level that may be.
“There’s times when you’re just not sure. And then you get to this point and you’re like, ‘There’s a legitimate chance you could really go play college football.’”