“It’s a really big test for Anzar and a great barometer for where the program is at essentially,” Hawks coach Kollin Kosmicki said. “In prior years, I’m not even sure if Anzar looked at this as a winnable type game. But now we certainly are. I think it’s a significant game for the program, and we’re not trying to prove anything to anybody but ourselves.”
The Hawks have played only one game this season, due to its last opponent—Shandon High—cancelling on them two weeks ago. Before that, Anzar had a bye week, meaning it will have gone three weeks between games before facing Stuart Hall.
Other than a bit of anxiousness from wanting to play and the usual lull or two that comes with daily practices without a game in immediate sight, the Hawks have had a chance to focus on themselves and improve daily.
“It’s been a challenge to deal with having so much time off when everyone is so excited to move forward and continue to see how far we’ve come,” Kosmicki said. “You have to deal with complacency issues naturally, guarding against that and making sure practices are meaningful.”
Stuart Hall has had some great results so far, having beaten Upper Lake and South Fork following a season-opening 58-56 loss to Woodside Priory, a traditional 8-man power. The Knights have an explosive offense and stout defense, led by two-way standout quarterback/linebacker Jorim Powell, a four-year starter who has a number of weapons at his disposal.
“He’s definitely a game-changer,” Stuart Hall coach Richard Robinson said. “He’s a force that can run and throw.”
Kosmicki agreed: “You don’t stop a guy like him. He’s going to make some big plays, but we have to limit them.”
The Knights are far from a one-man show. They possess athleticism at the skill positions and size on the lines. Linebacker Jonathan Newsome has also taken some snaps under center to give defenses another thing to think about and plan for. The receiving core—“It’s one of the strongest we’ve had here,” Robinson said—features Quinn Rodriguez and Mitchell Krupnik, who both have gone over 100 yards receiving in the same game in two of the team’s three contests.
Robinson said he has the utmost respect for Anzar, which despite winning only one game a year ago has traditionally been a tough opponent for the Knights.
“Anzar always plays us real tough,” Robinson said. “They always have tough kids, and their coaching staff always gets their players to play hard.”
Stuart Hall defeated Anzar 26-6 a year ago, but the Hawks enter this game with a completely different mindset. The Hawks certainly respect the Knights; however, they’re not going into the game with a hope for the best mentality. On the contrary, Anzar feels emboldened because it seemingly has one of its most talented teams—at least from an athleticism standpoint—in recent memory.
“We’re out to prove Anzar is right there with teams like Woodside Priory and Stuart Hall,” Kosmicki said. “We don’t really care what the rankings are or where we’re ranked. For us, I’ve got these guys physically and mentally prepared for Stuart Hall. The way we look at it is we’re prepared to win the football game Saturday. I don’t think we’ll be overmatched by any means. Athletically, I think we match up just fine. As long as we execute our offense, I don’t’ think they can stop us. They’ll be a little bigger than us, but we’ve also got playmakers on offense and defense. And frankly, we have plenty of size with our two guys in the middle—they’re stout and powerful.”
Kosmicki was referring to Jose Pineda and Rafael Magana, both of whom tip the scales at over 250 pounds. The two are the stalwarts on the offensive line, along with center Ben Minard, who also plays an instrumental role at linebacker.
“I’m expecting big things out of Minard dealing with that Stuart Hall offense,” Kosmicki said. “And Jose and Rafael, I’ll take those tough guys against any team.”
Magana and Pineda will also see plenty of snaps on the defensive line, which also features end/linebacker Jake Lindholm, who is one of the team’s premier playmakers.
One thing is for certain: Like most coaches, Kosmicki knows there is no room for fear in football—“That’s anti-football,” he said—and his team certainly won’t be apprehensive for Saturday’s game.
“With Stuart Hall there is absolutely no intimidation factor,” he said. “And no reason for there to be an intimidation factor. We can play them today and we’d be fine that. I haven’t been this excited for competition in quite a while.”