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Kennedy's Johar wants to put his mark on All-Star Game
Losing would have ruined Anthony Johar’s weekend.
So he yelled and screamed and wore his emotions on his sleeve.
Sean Clark, his football coach, said he had to reel in his letter winner at times.
“He couldn’t turn (his intensity) off,” Clark said.
Luckily, after a slow start, Johar’s team won.
He was coaching senior girls in Kennedy High’s powder puff flag football game.
“I didn’t want to lose,” Johar said. “I don’t like losing.”
On Friday, Johar will represent Kennedy in the 57th annual Brea Lions Orange County All-Star Football Game.
Playing for the North team, Johar will prove his mettle against the county’s best.
“This game means a lot because I’m not coming from one of the bigger schools,” he said. “I’m from a small school, and I can represent Kennedy and show everybody what I can do.
“I’ll be able to prove that I’m not only good in my small division, I can play against bigger schools and compete against the best players.”
Johar gets his competitiveness from his mother, a football fanatic.
She made her name once upon a time playing football in the street with boys her age. Over the years, her stories of overcoming odds have influenced her oldest son.
Johar joined his first Pop Warner football team at 4. He loved contact.
Although others pouted when they got knocked down, Johar popped back up, his mother always there to brush the dirt off his shoulder pads.
“If I missed a tackle,” he said, “she’d tell me to get back up – there’s no crying in football.”
As a novice, Johar played for his share of bad football teams. But a brief run in a Los Alamitos league changed his fortune.
Johar eventually joined a handful of friends on an Anaheim team that won more than it lost. It was on that troupe that he first played running back.
“I always loved playing defense because I could be aggressive, I could hit,” he said. “But when they finally let me play running back, I saw how fun it is to score, to run somebody over, to be on the other side of the football.”
Torn between enrolling at Kennedy or Cypress, Johar followed several friends from Walker Junior High to Kennedy.
He played freshman football in 2012, settling in nicely at defensive back.
Kennedy’s varsity team that season won five games.
Cypress’ won six.
Clark remembers hearing the hit from across the field.
A starting cornerback for Kennedy’s 2013 junior varsity team, Johar read and reacted to a toss play Valencia High called for its running back.
The ball carrier never made it to the line of scrimmage.
“Who’s that kid?” the coach wondered.
“He was never the biggest guy, not even close, but that never stopped him,” Clark said.
Johar ascended to varsity as a junior and started at cornerback for a Kennedy team that narrowly missed the playoffs.
That season, he did more following than leading, admitting recently to sometimes ignoring his coaches’ advice.
But last summer, after the school hired Clark to replace Brit Johnson as head coach, he recommitted himself to the craft. Johar frequented the gym with teammate Aundre Short and added 15 pounds of muscle to his lithe frame by the fall.
“I’d seen how big the people (on varsity) were my junior year,” he said. “I’d had experience getting run over, and I was sick of getting run over.”
Johar, now 5-foot-7, 170 pounds, started at cornerback for Kennedy at the outset of the 2015 season. An injury to Clark’s top running back in the first week left the coach scrambling for a replacement.
He turned to Johar.
“We needed a tough dude back there,” said Clark, a former linebacker with an eye for tough. “We had some tough guys, but he was the toughest guy on the team. A guy you can give the ball to 30 times a game and he’d be mad because he didn’t get it 40.
“We caught lightning in a bottle with him.”
Johar rushed for 46 and 60 yards in his first two games. He also started at cornerback.
To improve his conditioning, he’d run drills after practice. Playing two ways all game, every game, takes a toll on kids, Clark said.
In a Sept. 24 loss to Capistrano Valley, Johar gained 143 yards on 29 carries. Later, in consecutive Empire League victories against Pacifica and Western, he rushed for 369 total yards and scored five times.
He saved his best for Cypress.
With 334 rushing yards, Johar on Oct. 30 set Kennedy’s single-game rushing record. Five times he scored that night as the Irish avoided an eighth straight loss to their rival.
OCVarsity named Johar its player of the week, and he later collected a $100 bet with a friend who said he wouldn’t set the school’s rushing mark.
“They weren’t ready for it,” Johar bragged eight months later. “We walked up to the field, saw all the posters they’d put on our locker room, talking bad about our school. That hyped us up even more.
“We started slow, but we picked up real quick. They were nowhere near our level. We let our game talk.”
Kennedy this season lost to eventual CIF-SS Southwest Division champion La Habra High in the opening round of the playoffs.
Johar finished his senior season with 1,130 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
He received Empire League co-offensive player of the year plaudits and later earned a spot on the North roster for Friday’s All-Star Game.
Next week, he’ll begin training with Orange Coast College’s team, which he’ll run for in the fall.
“I think I get my toughness from everybody underestimating me,” Johar said. “I want to show what I’m all about. I’m small. I’m short. But that has nothing to do with my play. When I step on the field, in my mind, I don’t want to go down.
“I’m staying on my feet the whole time.”
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