ROYAL CITY — Sawyer Jenks wouldn’t be the first brother trying to play his way out from under the long shadow cast by an older brother.
Eli Manning comes to mind, so does Derek Carr. But the Royal senior is making his own noise in leading the three-time consecutive 1A state champions on one more campaign before he follows Kaden off into the sunset in pursuit of a college career.
Kaden is currently contending for the starting quarterback job at Weber State University. Sawyer, who was 149-of-249 for 2,790 yards and 40 touchdowns as a junior, including 16-of-33 for 180 yards and a touchdown in the state title game, passed on playing American Legion baseball this past summer to focus on football.
It’ll be some time before younger brother Ben factors into the Knights’ quarterback conversation, but there's been a Jenks under center the last six years for a program that has not lost since the 1A quarterfinals in 2014.
“I don’t want to give you the whole story or you’d think I was raising a bunch of heathens, man,” dad Brandon Jenks said with a laugh. “But I will say, they are fierce competitors and they’re at the point now where they don’t want to beat anybody worse than they want to beat each other.
“Whether it’s backyard basketball, whether it’s wrestling matches in the living room or throwing the ball to the other end of the yard — it’s always a competition.”
The true benefactor to this competitive nature has been Royal football over the past three seasons. The Knights go into the 2018 season with the fourth-longest winning streak in the nation (41), according to MaxPreps. Royal became the seventh school in Washington state history to win three or more consecutive WIAA titles at the same level, and just the second 1A school to do it.
“When Sawyer was a freshman, he didn’t want nothing to do with it. But now, even when Kaden comes home on break, they were out back seeing who could throw it more accurate, who could throw it farther,” Brandon said. “That kind of stuff is happening all the time.”
Kaden led the Knights to the first two state championships, throwing for 2,506 yards and 36 touchdowns, while rushing for 546 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior. Kaden, who threw 45 touchdown passes as a junior, was named The Associated Press 1A player of the year in his final high school season.
Sawyer picked up the torch last year. He had five touchdown passes in his first varsity game as the starter, leading an explosive Royal offense that averaged 56.6 points a game.
“I’ve been working hard and now it’s my chance,” said Sawyer, who actually had more touchdown passes last year than Kaden as a senior. “I just want to write my own story. We really have a solid receiving corps. It depends on down and distance, but I like to take my shots. Being a leader and the quarterback comes with the territory. We have other leaders in our locker room, but we all play with confidence.”
They were raised on the principle that good things come to those who work for it. Kaden Jenks is trying to make his way onto the field for the FCS program in Ogden, Utah. He said his playing time will be determined by the coaching staff, and all he can do is put in the work and be ready when his time comes.
As for little brother, he’s family and he’s proud.
“You can see that everything’s paying off and I’m proud of him,” said Kaden, who finished with a 45-6 career record as a four-year starter at Royal City. “I don’t know if people think of me first, but he’s out there making a name for himself. People don't know just how competitive he really is or his drive to win. Growing up, that’s something that’s always been between us as two competitors. We want to beat each other at everything. We’re kind of one of those families where everything was about competition.”
The Knights open the 2018 season at home (Aug. 31) with a nonleague game against 2A Ellensburg. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at David Nielsen Stadium.