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Hansen twins anchoring tough Cibola defense
Cibola junior inside linebackers Jacob and Josh Hansen have the same long, wavy hair — an homage to NFL linebackers Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk and their older brother Zach, who graduated from Cibola in 2011.
Both stand with a 6-foot, 210-pound frame, roaming the middle of the field looking to blow up a run or step into a passing lane. And most ironically, both currently have 41 tackles on the year for the Raiders — they're identical twins, why wouldn't they?
“Maybe the coaches are keeping it the same so we're both equal,” Jacob said.
If one Hansen is good, two are even better — at least for Cibola coach Lucky Arvizo. Considering the Raiders are 3-1 heading into tonight's game at Brawley, the Hansens have been a key part of a defense that has surrendered less than seven points three times this season.
“They've really improved on their downhill play and they're great students of the game,” Arvizo said.
Last season, Josh finished with 12 tackles on the season — four of which came in the 33-14 loss to Pinnacle in the first round of the Division I state playoffs. This year, he had 18 tackles in the Yuma High game alone.
“I felt like I was all over the field and when I watched film, I noticed I did really well,” he said of the Raiders' 49-0 win of the Criminals. “I was all over the place.”
With two identical bodies who can only be recognized because Josh wears number 43 and Jacob wears number 56, there's a sense that there are Hansens all over the place at practice. Even their teammates have to resort to minuscule details — and even that requires a strong memory to remember who's who.
“I can't tell them apart. I always have to look at their cleats, because Josh — I think it's Josh — one of them has the same cleats as me,” senior running back Jordan Mitchell said.
After 16 years, the two are used to being an identical twin. They don't know what it's like not to be. Some can tell them apart because Jacob's hair is a tad longer. Josh is the outgoing, boisterous one; Jacob is the more introverted of the two — the one who “gets things done,” he likes to say. But talking with them will cause your eyes to dart back and forth as the two routinely finish each other's sentences — something they get told a lot.
“Whenever we're both in there, we work really well together,” Josh says.
“It's like a natural trust,” Jacob interrupts.
“We trust each other.”
“And do our jobs.”
They and the other Raiders have talked about how funny it would be if they switched jerseys and offensive positions for practice — if Jacob took snaps at fullback while Josh played on the offensive line. And considering the rigorous way they practice, Arvizo thinks they might be able to get away with it.
“If they switched jerseys, it'd be difficult for me to tell,” he said with a laugh.
“We talked about it recently,” Josh said about the idea of switching roles for a day. “We're thinking about it. We're not sure if it'll turn out good.”
Identity confusion is nothing new for the Cibola practices. One of the Hansen brothers is the long-snapper for the punt team while the other is the long-snapper for the point after touchdown.
Just don't ask Arvizo which one is which.
“I believe,” he starts before a long pause. “I want to say Josh is punt and Jacob is PAT.”