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Hansen the man in the middle for Raiders in POY season
Anthony Messer, Harvest Prep
Michael Klakulak, Kofa
Michael Campos, Cibola
David Stiles, Yuma High
Chance Hamilton, Yuma High
Austin Vargas, Gila Ridge
Jacob Hansen, Cibola
Marco Perricone, Yuma Catholic
Andy Determan, Yuma Catholic
Peter Hurtado, Yuma Catholic
Branden Kehl, Gila Ridge
Carter Rodriguez, Yuma Catholic
By the start of the 2012 football season, Cibola linebacker Josh Hansen wasn't completely healthy after battling an offseason that turned into a medical fiasco.
But by the end of the year, Hansen became a standout insider linebacker for the Raiders and is the 2012 Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Defensive Player of the Year.
After playing a handful of times his sophomore year, he went into the offseason with dedication to improve all areas of his game – getting stronger, faster and smarter. However, his body wasn't going to make it easy on him.
In May, Hansen was put on the shelf after fracturing his hip bone – causing him to miss team workouts and practices. By July, his hip was close to being healed, but closer towards the start of the season, he got his wisdom teeth pulled.
“I wasn't even 100-percent by Havasu,” said Hansen, referring to the Raiders' season-opening 30-16 win over the Knights in which he had four tackles.
However, as his body finally started to get back to normal, his stats began to take off. He finished the year with a team-high 122 tackles and three sacks. Hansen piled up that number by having six games with more than 10 tackles – and three games with nine.
“It didn't surprise me,” Cibola coach Lucky Arvizo said of Hansen's improvement in his junior season. “Did he perform better than we expected him to? Absolutely. But it didn't surprise me because of his work ethic. We kept him up on varsity as a sophomore because of his work ethic.”
“I didn't even know I was going to be as good as I ended up. I was just excited to play because I didn't play that much last year,” said Hansen, whose twin-brother Jacob finished with 103 tackles despite missing time with a leg injury. “A couple games into the season, I realized I was doing pretty well. Me and my brother were doing pretty well. And it's like, ‘Wow, I'm actually decent.'”
Perhaps Josh Hansen's finest hour came in the Raiders' biggest win of the season. The 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker finished with 18 tackles in Cibola's 28-27 overtime win over Sunnyside.
“That was just an exciting game. The intensity. Flying around. Tackling people. That was pretty cool,” Hansen said.
Arvizo sees in Hansen the tools that make a great linebacker – intelligence to read a play with the aggressiveness to run through a wall to make it.
“It's both, definitely. He's a smart player, but his intensity is very high as well. Not just in the games, but in practice,” Arvizo said.
For Hansen, it's work to balance his emotions as he lines up. He must keep focused to read the play but prepare his body for the inevitable hit he's about to land on the opposing player.
“I'm not calm but I'm trying to pay attention to what's going on and staying focused,” Hansen said. “I'm not the type who's out there drooling all over the place, growling and yelling at guys. I'm not the noisy person out there.”
Perhaps the best news for Arvizo is that Hansen returns next season for the Raiders. He'll spend the offseason improving his reads, gaining strength and – knock on wood – staying healthy.
“Knowing Josh, he's going to improve,” Arvizo said. “He had a great year this year, but because of his intensity and work ethic, he'll continue to improve.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.