If everything goes right, 2012 promises to be a much better season for the Anzar High football team in its second year of existence. With a summer to prepare and the addition of new faces, Anzar head coach Luis Espinoza is ready to see his team take the next steps.
Those steps, though, start with a core group of returning players highlighted by sophomores and seniors, he said.
“Those guys are all returners so they played all six games last year,” Espinoza said. “They’ve seen it. They experienced some hard-hitting football. Having that experience is key. We don’t have to show it all over again. We don’t have to go back.”
Through two weeks of practice, that experience is recognizable. Last year, the team spent more than two weeks on formed tackling. This year they spent just a few days.
“My returners are already hitting,” he said. “They are coming hard and getting to the football. That’s something we are working on. We want the defense to be ball hungry. We want to cause fumbles and try to get to the football. I think you will see a difference in our defense in how they play on the field.”
In the team’s second year, the defense will be the most important piece, Espinoza said.
“We never had a chance to get our offense out there last year,” Espinoza said. “Our defense was always getting beat. There were teams that would always go for it … there was no respect from the opposing team. They had no respect for our defense. This year, we are going to come and hit you. So you better make sure that you are ready.”
That aggressive defense is going to fall on the shoulders of two returning sophomores – Matt Yarborough and Joseph Banuelos. Both played important roles on last year’s squad but are making position changes in the new year.
Yarborough, who lost nearly 40 pounds over the summer, will move from nose tackle to middle linebacker on defense. Banuelos will slide to the outside linebacker position to give Anzar a strong, hard-hitting linebacking group.
“Once they get it started, it is going to be unstoppable,” Espinoza said. “I can’t wait to see when they are seniors.”
Yarborough, who played with his brother on last year’s team, continues to get better, Espinoza said.
“He is the type of player you want and that’s coming from a sophomore,” Espinoza said. “He loves the game of football and he loves his teammates. He will do anything to make the team better.”
So far, he is thriving at his new position.
“I like it a lot,” he said. “I feel like I have a lot more freedom to move around and build some speed to hit someone. I’m always trying to talk to these guys and motivate them to do it the right way and don’t get lazy and stay pumped.”
And Banuelos’ transition has been just as effective, Espinoza said.
“The kid is a hybrid,” Espinoza said. “He is an animal. The kid is finally getting the concept of being a nasty linebacker. He works hard in the weight room. He is one of the strongest players on my team. The kids are in awe when he is in the weight room. The players, they get scared a little bit because he comes and hits.”
The sophomore is excited for the position change.
“It feels great,” he said. “I mean it’s nice to get back out here and hit – it’s a nice stress reliever. It’s good teaching the new guys the ropes. It shows how lucky I was last year to be a part of this program.”
On offense, the Hawks will rely on returning quarterback Jeremy Cedeno and center Jacob Imlay to put points on the board.
“I’ve seen a lot of improvement and I’m really glad these guys have been pushing themselves during conditioning and going 110 percent on every play,” Cedeno said. “I think we are a good football team and I think we can do some good things. We are bigger. We are stronger. And we are faster.
Cedeno, who worked on his mechanics over the off-season, looks for a more consistent offensive push from a year ago thanks to more experience, he said.
“I’m really hoping for a good record this year,” he said. “The biggest difference I’ve seen is probably just the mentality of the players. Last year, we didn’t know what to expect – none of us.”
With that should come an improvement – and more wins – from last year’s 1-5 campaign.
“I want to get a lot more wins this year, and win a few games at him to show the fans we know how to play,” Imlay said.