St. Francis quarterback John Sanders continues 160-mile round-trip commute

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In the fall of 2021, the most amazing commitment began. Tracey Sanders bought a new hybrid car so that six days a week he’d be able to drive his freshman son, John, from the family home in Mojave to St. Francis High in La Cañada Flintridge. It’s 80 miles one way and takes 90 minutes driving the 14 Freeway.

Two years later, his other son, Shawn, joined John in attending St. Francis and making the 160-mile round-trip commute. Both are quarterbacks and had been trained by St. Francis coach Dean Herrington since they were youth athletes.

“We do whatever we have to do for the kids,” said Tracey, a general contractor who also helps coach at St. Francis.

With temperatures closing in on 100 degrees in Mojave, John, now a senior, was enjoying summer workouts last week at St. Francis. And he was ready to answer the question, “Did you think you’d do this for four years coming from Mojave?”

“Ah, to be honest, before I came here, I didn’t think it would last this long,” he said. “But here we are. I’ve got one more year.”

The long commute has been good for both Sanders boys. They have grade-point averages above 4.0 and use their car time for doing homework or sleeping. John is coming off a junior season when he was one of the most versatile quarterbacks, passing for 2,032 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for 778 yards and eight touchdowns.

Herrington has compared him to the coach’s former quarterback pupil, Vernon Adams, who wasn’t recruited much out of Bishop Alemany but went on to play for Eastern Washington and Oregon. Adams now plays in the Canadian Football League.

“Colleges made a mistake not going after Vernon,” Herrington said. “Now it’s the same deal. I don’t get it. John can run, can throw. He’s smart. He’s tough. I see a lot of bad college quarterbacks out there. Someone has to pull the trigger.”

Sanders ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds at a football camp this summer and ran an 11.2-second 100 meters for the track team. He thinks he’s faster and stronger.

“I can just feel it,” he said.

The Golden Knights are expected to pass the ball a lot more with the addition of new receivers who are faster than last year’s group. Demari Nunley, a transfer from St. Pius X-St. Matthias, and sophomores Mason Maddox and Daveon Blaylock could take advantage of Sanders’ arm and experience.

Then there’s Shawn, a sophomore who serves as the backup quarterback, receiver, kicker and punter. With scorching temperatures last week, John was outside serving as the holder while little brother tried field goals. Imagine the potential fake field-goal plays that could be designed with the kicker and holder both quarterbacks. Think laterals, but who should throw the ball?

“Either of us,” John said. “Whomever grabs it first.”

The Sanders family can discuss their ideas coming and going thanks to Dad being their loyal chauffeur. Tracey said the hybrid is holding up and will need to last through 2026, when Shawn graduates. That would be five years of round trips from Mojave to La Cañada Flintridge.

“Their grades are great,” Tracey said. “I’m not breaking up that.”

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