If there’s one thing you couldn’t get away with calling Head of the Bay Cougars defensive lineman and running back David Sanarov, it’s lazy.
It’s been a big year for the senior from Voznesenka School. He was voted defensive player of the year for the Division III conference, and was chosen as a first-team inside linebacker and a second-team return specialist in all-state balloting released Monday.
Sanarov’s defensive player of the year recognition is a repeat from last year, when he received the same honor in Division III conference voting for the first time as a junior. Even though Sanarov said he worked on the team with those honors in his mind as a goal, they all came as a surprise.
“My brothers were like, ‘Are they sure they got the right person?’” Sanarov joked.
His brothers weren’t actually all that surprised, he said, given that they’ve watched how hard he’s been playing. They played football before him, and he said he comes from a sports-oriented family. Though he watched his brothers play football growing up, he’d never played it himself until he stepped onto the field as a freshman with the Cougars.
Sanarov didn’t have any specific positions in mind when he started playing football, but has more than come into his own, especially as a defensive player.
“My coach showed me the way,” he said. “… Being a linebacker and being a running back is the best job there is.”
Finding the way wasn’t always easy. As a member of one of the Russian Old Believer villages, football was balanced with the many responsibilities young men have in their home lives, like chores and religious practice and holy days. The Cougars have a bye week when most other conference teams have their first game to account for many of the team’s players still being out commercial fishing with their families.
Balancing work with football was a compromise worked out within his family, Sanarov said of the game.
“It’s worth it because it actually helps you in life,” he said.
Sanarov said joining football teaches teamwork and how to place one’s trust in others.
More than the work-play balance, figuring out how to be part of the team and play the game were learning curves for the senior. It can be that way for a lot of players who are from a community where football is not a priority, head coach Justin Zank told the Homer News in a previous interview.
“The hardest part was becoming a football player,” Sanarov said.
Being from a small, tight knit community can also have its advantages on the field, though. Sanarov said that playing for the Cougars is very unique compared to the other teams on the Kenai Peninsula, as the players see each other day in and day out in school and in their villages. They share an extremely close bond.
“The most memorable one is everybody on the team. They’re like family to me,” he said of his time playing football.
Playing for the Cougars also means a lot more work just to keep up with other conference teams. With anywhere from 12-14 players at any given game of 11-man football, Sanarov and his teammates are often working harder in both directions for the duration of a game.
Looking back over his high school football career, Sanarov said the major change he’s seen in himself is growing confidence.
“I became less scared,” he said. “I just wanted to make my coach proud.”
Now that he’ll no longer be on the team, Sanarov said he’d like to see them do better going forward. He hasn’t made a final decision on whether he’ll stay in the Voznesenka and Homer area following high school, he said, but he’s thought about helping out the team as an alum if he’s around in the future.
At the end of the day, Sanarov’s football and high school careers are a testament to what a little hard work will do.
“I played my heart out,” he said.