Golden Valley’s Anthony at the center of a gritty defense

Golden Valley’s Darius Anthony (8) is averaging 11.5 tackles per game this season. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Golden Valley High linebacker Darius Anthony was supposed to play basketball.

“Miles Fallin at Canyon, we used to be best buddies and he told me to come out and join football (in elementary school). I was training for basketball, but I asked my dad to play football,” said Anthony.

Anthony never started basketball. From that moment on, it was all about football.

“What kept me coming back is I just love the amazement,” he said. “I love winning, I love the competitiveness. It’s like a strategy game. There’s puzzles you’ve got to figure out — what the offensive line is doing. It’s like a mystery.”

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As a senior, he’s still doing the puzzles, but now he has the photo on the box to go off of. Anthony watches film every day, and his studies have paid dividends.

He now lines up the defense and can predict offensive movements before the ball is even snapped. His ability to understand both offense and defense has earned him opportunities at other spots on the field.

“It’s eye-opening the way he flies to the football, or he pursues the football,” said Grizzlies linebacker coach Eric Harris. “It shows us that now he can cover kicks on special teams and he worked his way up to offense as well in a couple packages we do. And it’s a credit to him doing so well on defense.

“I don’t know if he realizes that he’s (primarily) a defensive player because he’s so smart.”

Before he assumed the role of defensive valedictorian, Anthony stood on the sidelines observing former Grizzlies like Bryan Barrera and Trevor McKnight. Anthony didn’t get much playing time, and few expected him to fill the shoes of the aforementioned defensive players.

“It’s like I was in a little shell, but then I just came out and it’s amazing.”
-Darius Anthony

The now-shattered program record of 129 tackles in a season (set by Joseph Figueroa in 2008) proves critics wrong. According to MaxPreps, Anthony has trumped the milestone with 138 total tackles, 85 of which are of the solo variety.

“It’s like I was in a little shell, but then I just came out and it’s just amazing,” Anthony said. “No one expected me to become some star on defense, but like, it happened.”

“When I was there,” says Barrera, who now plays at College of the Canyons, “he was new and we were all just like, ‘Who is this kid?’ And then once we started practice, he really showed us he’s a hard hitter and he’s a hard worker. He had dedication to the team. … I wish I could be out there with him.”

With a lean, lanky build, Anthony doesn’t fit the description of the traditional brick-wall middle linebacker, but rather a new-age linebacker fit for handling spread offenses.

Golden Valley's Darius Anthony (8) takes down Canyon's Miles Fallin during a Foothill League game in October. Katharine Lotze/Signal
Golden Valley’s Darius Anthony (8) takes down Canyon’s Miles Fallin during a Foothill League game in October. Katharine Lotze/Signal

“His stature (gives him) a leg up because he’s so fast,” Harris said. “So he’s able to get around linemen quicker and pursue the ball faster because of his speed, and he’s so tall he can see over most of these offensive lines we play, so I think it helps him more than it hinders him.”

In two playoff games, Golden Valley has held opponents to two touchdowns and will likely continue to do so in its third playoff game Friday at Canyon against San Gorgonio of San Bernardino. Harris believes it’s because the defense is just that tough.

“I’ve seen on multiple occasions where it looks like a serious injury, but he pops right back up, takes one play off and gets back in,” he said. “I think that’s the identity of this defense, is that we are tough. When things go bad, we’re able to rise to the occasion and I think (Darius) fits in perfect with that.”

Anthony has spent his whole football career figuring out the pieces to puzzles. He didn’t realize he was the missing piece to the Grizzlies’ puzzle.

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