Hawks ready to soar again

Matt Nickerson, Eric Chavarria, Nick Nickerson, Isaiah Loya, Bruce Funk and Jose Arriaga aim to lead Anzar to another solid season. Photo by Robert Eliason.

The Anzar High football team had its greatest season in program history in 2018, finishing 5-4 overall and 3-1 in Pacific Coast League 8-man play. The Hawks’ league record was good for second place, also a high water mark for the San Juan Bautista school. Whether Anzar can repeat that encore performance—or even surpass it—remains to be seen, but this much is certain: the Hawks have become consistent in their practices, on-field effort and repeating that cycle every season.

“We’re always dealing with the inevitable factor that half the team if not more comes into this having never played the sport of football,” said Kollin Kosmicki, who is entering his third season as the Anzar coach. “We’re starting from the ground up every single year, but that is part of the reason why I enjoy being here—you teach the fundamentals of the game. … Our expectation is to keep this train going and win more games than we did last year.”

Kosmicki added that this might be the most talented team he’s had since he took over, which is saying a lot considering the 2018 squad wasn’t too shabby. In the 8-man game, a team needs three strong linemen to consider itself in solid shape. The Hawks have that, especially with junior center Alan Cruz, who Kosmicki expects to earn all-league recognition this season.

Cruz anchors a line that includes stalwart juniors Lathan Juarez and Jorge Somano. The Hawks, who have been a run-dominant team the last two years, will try to be more balanced in the passing game in 2019. However, there is no doubt the team’s strength revolves around its run game, starting with the offensive line and running back Nick Nickerson, who was the runner-up in the league’s Player of the Year voting last season.

“Nick is stout but fast,” Kosmicki said. “He’s a bulldozer kind of running back and can break away if he gets out in open space, and he’s probably the strongest guy on the team.”

Kosmicki is also high on Nickerson’s twin brother, Matt, who plays quarterback and possesses athleticism, quickness and good instincts. Matt was the team’s starting signal-caller last year only to suffer an injury in the third game of the season. With both Nickersons healthy, expect Anzar to utilize both players early and often. Juniors Eroz Valenzuela and Jonan Franco are two players who will play hybrid running back/receiver positions with the potential to stretch defenses.

“We’ve got some burners on this team,” Kosmicki said. “We just have to get them the ball in our same dual back formation, but we’ve also installed a wing offense.”

Eric Chavarria possesses tremendous talent and should make an impact in a variety of ways, including out of the backfield.

“He’s one of those wild cards where depending on how they play, we could either be good or great,” Kosmicki said. “We need two or three of those wild cards to step up. We’ll do more spread and passing this year.”

Sophomore wide receiver Juan Martinez has plenty of promise, as he committed himself to the weight room in the off-season and got bigger and stronger.

“Juan is one of those guys who will be good with the potential to be great,” Kosmicki said. “He’s plenty talented and we’re looking for some good things out of him.”

Junior Daniel Granados has looked solid in practices and also has the potential to be a force in the passing game, along with Hector Rocha and Estevan Castaneda. Defensively, returning senior Jose Arriaga should be a force yet again at defensive end/outside linebacker, but he also might see time at tight end.

“We’re looking really, really good,” Kosmicki said. “We have a lot of talent all over the field, and it’s a matter of how well the coaching staff does at teaching the fundamentals. We’re looking to bring along the players quickly and it’s also about how much they buy into the principles, how hard they want to work and how fast they can figure it out. If they do, this is the most talented team I’ve had by far.”

SCHEDULE

9/7 vs. Roseland College Prep, 6 p.m.

9/21 at Crystal Springs Uplands, 1 p.m.

9/28 at Branson High, 1 p.m.

10/5 vs. Pinewood, 6 p.m.

10/11 vs. Cornerstone, 4 p.m.

10/19 vs. Pacific Point, 6 p.m.

10/26 vs. Woodside Priory, 6 p.m.

11/2 vs. Trinity Christian at Pacific Grove High, 2 p.m.

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