Fels’ Reeder helps transform improving program

Mr. Do-It-All: Jy­lil Reed­er, a four-year vet­er­an of the Samuel Fels foot­ball pro­gram, lines up all over the field for the Pan­thers. ED MOR­RONE / TIMES PHOTO

Jy­lil Reed­er’s prowess on the foot­ball field can be sum­mar­ized in three let­ters:


While most high school play­ers are as­signed a spe­cif­ic po­s­i­tion on their re­spect­ive team’s roster, it’s hard to pin Reed­er to one spot giv­en all he does as a seni­or for Samuel Fels. As a res­ult, he’s just lis­ted as “ATH,” short for ath­lete. His nat­ur­al po­s­i­tion is wide re­ceiv­er, sure, but when the Pan­thers were without their top two quar­ter­backs in the sea­son-open­er against Abing­ton, Reed­er lined up un­der cen­ter. He com­pleted 8 of his 15 passes for 44 yards in a 53-22 loss to Abing­ton, while also rush­ing for 113 yards and a touch­down.

In Week 2 against Penn Charter, Reed­er sat out the first quarter, a pun­ish­ment for miss­ing a prac­tice earli­er in the week. The Quakers raced out to a 34-0 lead after one, and it was clear Fels’ chances of win­ning were slim-to-none. But that didn’t stop Reed­er from want­ing to atone for his mis­take and give it his all. All he did the fi­nal three quar­ters was haul in sev­en catches for a school re­cord 208 yards and touch­down re­cep­tions of 57, 8 and 29 yards, show­ing his ex­plos­ive tal­ents and re­fus­ing to give up on the game des­pite it be­ing way out of hand. Not only that, but he also lines up at de­fens­ive back on the oth­er side of the ball.

“I let my team down by miss­ing a prac­tice, so I just wanted to play hard to make it up to them,” a re­morse­ful Reed­er said a few days later at a Fels prac­tice. “I want to in­spire my team to do great things, and you can’t do that by miss­ing prac­tice. It won’t hap­pen again.”

Fels head coach Bill Har­rigan agreed, and he said he put it to Reed­er in a way to mo­tiv­ate his best and most im­port­ant play­er not to miss an­oth­er one.

“I told him that in three quar­ters of foot­ball, he had 208 yards re­ceiv­ing,” said Har­rigan, who has coached Reed­er for four sea­sons. “If he plays the whole game, he’s got a shot at break­ing the city re­cord, which I think he was 68 yards away from. That’s one or two catches for him. He thought about that, and I think it’s safe to say it will be the last time Jy­lil Reed­er misses prac­tice.”

Reed­er is a grizzled vet­er­an in a pro­gram still try­ing to es­tab­lish it­self in the Pub­lic League Gold Di­vi­sion, reg­u­larly go­ing toe-to-toe with the likes of Frank­ford, North­east, Wash­ing­ton and Cent­ral, schools with dec­ades of foot­ball his­tory. Ac­cord­ing to Har­rigan, Reed­er is just the fourth play­er in the pro­gram’s his­tory to play all four years, something the seni­or takes tre­mend­ous pride in.

Reed­er has been there through the rough days, when mor­ale was so low after losses that play­ers wouldn’t come back to prac­tice the fol­low­ing week. Now, he says, the Pan­thers are proud to be a part of the found­a­tion Fels has set, hav­ing reached the rough and tumble Gold Di­vi­sion in a re­l­at­ively short amount of time. The over­all win-loss re­cord may still not be spark­ling, but with each de­feat against a sub­urb­an-type power like Abing­ton or Penn Charter, the Pan­thers are see­ing more and more the to­geth­er­ness it takes to con­sist­ently field a win­ning team. Down 48-0 in the second half to Penn Charter, Fels played in­spired foot­ball, cor­rect­ing earli­er mis­takes be­fore the di­vi­sion games be­gin next week­end.

“We’ve al­ways been the un­der­dog,” Reed­er said. “Nobody points fin­gers any­more, and every­body owns up to their mis­takes. We all make mis­takes, but are you learn­ing from them? It’s all about pride to us now, and we really want to win. No mat­ter how much we’re down, we be­lieve we can come back and win the game. In the past we would hang our heads, but that’s not an is­sue any­more. Now, we know the game is nev­er over.”

Reed­er’s ma­tur­ity from “this little fresh­man who asked a mil­lion an­noy­ing ques­tions,” as Har­rigan put it, to un­dis­puted team lead­er, has been a per­fect am­al­gam for the Fels pro­gram.

“These guys are really act­ing like a team now, and he’s a big part of that, hav­ing been here for four years,” the coach said. “When we got back to the school after the loss to Tru­man, guys were ask­ing me if they could wear their jer­sey home over the week­end. There’s a sense of pride in wear­ing those col­ors now. We haven’t had the lux­ury of see­ing that too much in the past, so it’s real ex­cit­ing as this thing heads to­ward the fu­ture.”

But make no mis­take about it: in Reed­er’s fi­nal sea­son as a mem­ber of the Pan­thers, he prefers wins over sil­ver lin­ings and mor­al high grounds. Fels may be 0-2 through two weeks, but so are di­vi­sion rivals Wash­ing­ton, Frank­ford and North­east. Reed­er sees an op­por­tun­ity, and he wants to seize it, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing this could be his last year as a foot­ball play­er. Har­rigan opined that Reed­er wasn’t two or three inches taller to at­tract more Di­vi­sion-I at­ten­tion. Reed­er cer­tainly has the tal­ent to play at the next level of some sort, but that’s not something he is tak­ing for gran­ted.

He knows there’s a fi­nite amount of time left at a school he takes a lot of pride in, and thus wants to make the pre­cious games re­main­ing on the sched­ule count.

“We just want to win, that’s all we want to do,” Reed­er said. “We def­in­itely see ourselves get­ting bet­ter. I look around me and I know I wouldn’t have the suc­cess I’m hav­ing without my team­mates. It’s not just me. We got here to­geth­er, as a fam­ily. We could have rolled over and gone back to the Sil­ver Di­vi­sion, but we want to play the best in or­der to be­come the best.”

It re­mains to be seen where the Pan­thers will be in the stand­ings come Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber, but right now, they’re out there every day work­ing hard. So far in prac­tice this week, Har­rigan said Fels had just one miss­ing play­er. On Tues­day, prac­tice was sup­posed to start at 3:30, but the cap­tains, in­clud­ing Reed­er, had the team out there 15 minutes early to get in some ex­tra work. That says a lot about how far this pro­gram has come, ac­cord­ing to the coach and star play­er.

“With Jy­lil, I don’t think it’s a cock­i­ness thing; it’s a con­fid­ence thing,” Har­rigan said. “Cocky in­volves talk­ing. Con­fid­ence is go­ing out there and do­ing it, and so far, he’s gone out and done it. Men­tally, we have the right kinds of kids now. In­stead of go­ing in­to self-de­struct mode after a loss, now they’re locked in and com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing.”

“We’re a proud pro­gram now, and hon­estly that makes me feel amaz­ing,” Reed­er said. “We used to have bad at­ti­tudes, where if we lost a game, we’d all blame each oth­er. Now we’re proud to put on this jer­sey. This school made me, Har­rigan helped me get bet­ter, as did the seni­ors that came be­fore me. I’m just try­ing to pass that on to these guys.”

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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