Park Cities native Anderson has been a leader since youth leagues
Sawyer Anderson knew what he was getting into. But was he ready?
He had never played above the middle-school level in Highland Park, and was thrust into the starting quarterback role for a two-time defending TAPPS state champion. He was replacing Parish Episcopal legend Preston Stone, one of the state’s most decorated signal-callers, who’s now at SMU.
Anderson handled the pressure and responded to the challenge as a Parish freshman, leading the Panthers to a third straight crown. Last season, they earned a fourth.
Anderson and Parish will now aim for a fifth consecutive title this fall, which would put the Panthers among the most prolific dynasties in Texas high school football history.
“People look at it like it’s some sort of foregone conclusion, like it’s supposed to happen. But it’s not that easy,” said Parish head coach Daniel Novakov. “Once you get to that point, everybody is taking their shots at you. Everybody is trying to knock you off. It’s hard to keep that success going.”
Last year, the Panthers navigated one of the most challenging schedules of any team in the state and finished 12-1. They were especially dominant in TAPPS play, winning every contest by lopsided margins, including a 38-14 drubbing of Plano Prestonwood in the championship game.
“Not a lot of people see the work that goes into it,” said Anderson, whose grandfather, Donny, won two Super Bowls as a halfback for the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s. “It just puts a bigger target on your back.”
During his freshman campaign — with mentorship from Stone — Anderson started all 13 games and threw for 2,864 yards and 32 touchdowns.
“Stepping into those shoes, people labeled it a rebuilding year,” Anderson said. “The game happened a lot faster in my freshman year. It was like you’re always in panic mode. Year after year, it slows down a little bit.”
That experience paid off in 2022, when Anderson improved his numbers across the board, accounting for 41 scores. And he was elected as a team captain despite being only a sophomore.
Those leadership qualities have been evident since Novakov coached him during the summers in third through sixth grade.
“Even then, you could see his special ability and talent,” Novakov said. “Back in youth football, he was probably better with his feet than he was with his arm.”
Not surprisingly, college recruiters have noticed, too. Anderson had his first scholarship offer before he even played a high school game. Two days after the 2021 title tilt, Missouri offered. Since then, top programs from around the country have joined the parade.
“It’s pretty hard to play better than he’s played over the last two years,” Novakov said. “He will be bigger and stronger. You’ll see some more athleticism out of him.”