ARGYLE — So far this season, Argyle’s Ian Sadler has done a little bit of everything for the Eagles.
He has scored a rushing touchdown and two receiving touchdowns and taken a punt back for a fourth touchdown in three games. He has thrown a pass and he’s averaged nearly 40 yards on 13 punts, with four landing inside the 20-yard line.
None of that is a surprise, but the way the season started for the highly touted junior was a downright shock.
In Argyle’s 31-14 season-opening home loss to Abilene Wylie, Sadler touched the ball only three times on offense and totaled zero yards.
“It was very frustrating,” said Sadler, who finished last season with 53 catches for 1,115 yards and 12 touchdowns before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on his first touch in the Class 3A Division II state championship game. “I didn’t really care if I got the ball if we were going to win. But since we were losing and I still didn’t touch the ball, that was frustrating.”
There were many factors that contributed to the odd stat line. Argyle was breaking in an entirely new offensive unit, with the exception of Sadler. The Eagles have a new quarterback in Brandon Boyzuick, a new running back in Nick Ralston and new wide receivers, other than Sadler.
Two of the receivers who were penciled in as starters, Chance Bode and Dalton Ledford, missed the first game with injuries suffered in preseason scrimmages, leaving the Eagles’ offense in survival mode without much concern for trying to open things up against Wylie.
Since that disappointing performance, Sadler has gone back to being one of the more explosive players in the state, as evidenced by his being named to the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Class 3A preseason all-state team as a utility player.
And it didn’t take him long to rebound.
In the following game against Fort Worth Nolan Catholic, Sadler got started in a hurry, taking Argyle’s second offensive snap 55 yards for a rushing touchdown on an end-around. The following quarter saw Sadler strike again, this time on a 79-yard catch-and-run. In the third quarter, Sadler showed his versatility with a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown.
“He’s one of the most explosive offensive players we’ve ever had in our program,” Argyle head coach Todd Rodgers said. “He’s one of the best players on the field every time we line up, no matter whom we line up against.”
Not only was Sadler back from his disappointing season-opening performance, but he was back only nine months after surgery to repair his torn ACL suffered in the Eagles’ state final loss to Wimberley in December.
“It felt good,” Sadler said of his performance against Nolan. “Especially since I had my knee surgery and people didn’t know how I’d come back. It gave me a lot of confidence.”
Last week, Sadler had five catches for 118 yards and a score. He’ll have a chance for another big game when Argyle (2-1) plays host to Kennedale (2-1) at 7:30 tonight.
Sadler was cleared to return to full football activity less than six months after his January surgery, and he hit the ground running when two-a-day practices began in August.
“It was a really good inspiration to all of us,” Boyzuick said. “He showed us you need to work hard and push through things and you’ll be fine.”
Added Rodgers: “He did a remarkable job of rehab and recovering from his knee surgery. He was committed to doing everything possible and beyond what he was asked to do to get back and ready to play. He literally didn’t miss anything. He was back on the first day of two-a-days. He was released 100 percent from the very get-go.”
Barring another injury this season, Sadler said he hopes to return to the soccer field after football season. As a freshman at Argyle, he led the Eagles to a surprising Class 4A regional tournament berth by scoring 30 goals and adding 19 assists. He planned to play last season, but the knee injury didn’t allow that.
If all goes well this football season, Sadler plans on returning to play for the Dallas Texans, the soccer club he played for from the time he was a sixth-grader until a year ago.
Sadler’s elite talent on the soccer field has translated directly into success on the football field.
“It helps tremendously,” Sadler said. “The footwork really helps a lot, but the vision that soccer gave me really helped me on the football field more than anything, like when I’m running I’ll see ahead and know what I’m going to do to a defender.”
Rodgers agreed, saying he’s had a lot of success coaching talented soccer players on the football field, and Sadler is no different.
“He’s got great acceleration and lateral movement,” Rodgers said. “He anticipates movements and pace and angles about as well as anybody. He’s multiple moves ahead when he’s running with the ball. He doesn’t just see six feet ahead of him; he’s got the whole plan mapped out.”
In the grander scheme, Sadler has a plan mapped out as well. That includes another berth in the state championship game, hopefully with a clean bill of health unlike last year, when Sadler went down with his injury and outgoing quarterback Austin Aune was battling the flu and a high fever as Argyle lost 21-14.
“Obviously it wasn’t meant to happen, but I think we did everything we could with the situation we had,” Sadler said. “I just want to get back and be able to play throughout the whole game and hopefully end up winning this time.”
As for his coach, there is no one Rodgers would rather have on his side than a healthy, motivated Sadler.
“He can be as good as anybody out there,” Rodgers said. “He’s going to be one step faster than the opponent’s fastest player. He’s going to jump six inches higher to catch the football and he’s going to be one step ahead of the best coverage guy they’ve got. He just does it.
“I don’t know how fast he is, I don’t know how high he can jump and I certainly don’t know what his [40-yard dash] time is, but whatever it’s been, it’s been better than everyone we’ve played against.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .