Anzar football off and running

Members of the Anzar High football team, which won its season-opener last week.

By defeating Kings Christian 26-14 in its season-opener last Friday in Lemoore, the Anzar High football team has already equaled its win total from last season. One game does not make or come close to defining a season; however, the Hawks are seemingly in a great position to improve upon their 2016 campaign.

“For us it’s learning what we did right and building on those things,” coach Kollin Kosmicki said. “It’s also about improving on some things that will make us a stronger team now and in the long run.”

Even though the first-year Anzar coach knows it’s just one game, he said the players had every right to be a little more animated than usual after the game was over.

“Everyone was running around and excited,” Kosmicki said. “It was a good thing all the way around.”

The Hawks started fast, scoring the first three touchdowns of the game en route to a 20-0 lead after the first quarter. Greg Arispe accounted for all three TDs in the first quarter, on runs of 15, 62 and 40 yards. He also had an interception in the opening quarter that set up one of his TD runs.

Arispe finished with 186 yards on 15 carries, while also producing three tackles, including one for minus-6 yards.

“Greg made plays all night long, and I couldn’t have asked anything more from the team early on,” Kosmicki said. “Everything clicked on offense, and the players were completely focused and ready to go.”

Arispe also scored the team’s final TD of the game in the third quarter, a 10-yard run that put Anzar up 26-8. Once the Hawks built a big lead, they went to a run-dominated game to milk the clock and take any opportunities away from Kings Christian to mount a comeback.

It also helped that Anzar’s defense came ready to play as well. Kosmicki said Rafael Magana and Jose Pineda proved to be immovable forces up the middle, forcing Kings Christian to have to run to the perimeter. Kosmicki also noted the play of several others, including Hector Jiminez, Ben Minard (six tackles) and Kevin Jiminez.

It was truly a team effort, as 12 different players made tackles. Nick Nickerson recovered a fumble, while Jake Lindholm and Antonio Aguilar created pressure throughout coming off their defensive end positions.

“They were really disruptive,” Kosmicki said.

Lindholm had a terrific all-around game, rushing for 78 yards on eight carries, finishing with a 50-yard reception and providing a ferocious pass rush with 2 ½ sacks. For good measure, Lindholm made a crucial fourth-down tackle in the fourth quarter.

“Jake was unbelievable,” Kosmicki said.

Minard also did a fine job at center, consistently producing solid snaps in Anzar’s shotgun offense. Offensive linemen Minard, Magana, Pineda, Aguilar, Nickerson and Jorge Chavarria controlled things up front, giving the Anzar skill players plenty of room to make plays.

Rocha played tough defense from the cornerback and safety positions, and made a big impact on offense with 92 yards on five carries. Addam Banuelos had three tackles and multiple pass breakups. Even though Anzar knows it’s only one game, Arispe said there’s a noticeable difference with this year’s team.

“Coach Kollin has brought in a different mentality,” Arispe said. “He told us from Day One that he didn’t care about the past, and that we’re out here to become a winning team. He put that type of mentality in our mind, and we believe him. He’s a great coach.”

Even though Arispe hadn’t made much of an impact before last week’s game, no one should be surprised of his dynamic playmaking skills. Shifty, elusive and fast, Arispe can burst through a hole or find an opening even if one isn’t there. On his last TD, Aripse thought he was going to get tackled before he reached the end zone, so he dove for the pylon and reached it just as a Kings Christian defender hit him.

“I thought the defender was going to catch me, so when I reached the end zone, I just got up and freaked out in excitement,” he said.

Arispe has matured physically and emotionally since he was a freshman, but he said being put in a position to succeed was the No. 1 reason why he had a breakout game.

“I want to give coach Kollin a real shoutout because he noticed my talent and put me out there in a big spotlight to show what I’ve got,” Arispe said. “I’ve never been put in this kind of role.”

Arispe lines up in the backfield as a running back or quarterback, where he’s able to create space for himself and make plays.

“A lot of credit goes to our coaches,” Arispe said. “Coach (Matt) Lindholm has been with us forever and has shown us everything, and coach Kollin came in here and gave us a new attitude.”

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