When he was a sophomore at Chatham High School, Alex Sands’ grades were slipping, the Cougars were winless, and the idea began creeping into his head.
He thought about not coming back to football as a junior.
Imagine that for a moment.
Where would Chatham be right now if their quarterback veered off course?
The Cougars can only wonder.
Fortunately for Chatham, Sands reconsidered, and the Cougars have reached the North 2 Group III championship game against Cranford at Kean University at 7 p.m. Friday.
Sands has been one of the team leaders for three years, but at one point he began to wonder if football was worth all of the effort.
After he started as a sophomore for an 0-10 team, his grades were affected. In June of that year, he and his parents considered leaving football in an effort to get his grades back up to where they usually are.
Sands did indeed return to football, but one can only wonder what might have happened had he skipped his junior year.
“My parents and I came to the conclusion that … maybe I should take a year off to focus on my grades more,” Sands recalled. “I talked to coach (Jason Isza). He said, ‘Make sure school comes first. School is No. 1.’ But I chose to come back, and it has worked out well.”
It sure has. Sands’ grades have been fine, and so has his quarterbacking. He is 93 for 145 passing (64 percent) for 1,117 yards and 11 touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions. He has also run 50 times for 207 more yards.
In a 45-6 thumping of West Essex in the sectional semifinals, Sands was 10 for 12 passing for 114 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 62 yards on eight carries.
Close to 3,000 fans were on hand to watch the semifinal, a far cry from when Sands and the Cougars were winless just two years ago.
“Back then, there were about 20 fans and parents at the games,” he said. “Against West Essex, my dad told me that it was so loud that he went and stood by the grass because he couldn’t hear himself think.”
Isza, Sands and a terrific senior class have revolutionized Chatham football.
“He is another coach on the field,” Isza said. “He’s a character-type kid and a great leader. He is everything you can ask for in a quarterback. He knows where everyone should be, what the linemen should be doing, you name it. He’s another coach on the field. Our offense wouldn’t work without him being in there.”
Sands would like to play at the next level and has visited Division III schools Colby, Kenyon, Dennison and Dickenson. He wants to major in business or economics and minor in marketing. He’d like to work in the sports management field.
“I’m looking for academics in college first,” he said, “but good football is definitely a plus.”