Arlington coach Scott Peach had to put his salesman’s hat on when Matthew Anunda came to the Colts football program as a freshman four years ago.
Anunda, the fourth of four brothers to play football at Arlington High, was a running back at heart and Peach wanted him to convert full time to linebacker.
“We had to show him that despite his size, he could be a physical player and thrive in our defense,” Peach said. “We wanted him, really we needed him, to buy in to that because he already had the speed and ability to be a great defensive player.”
So when the Colts wrapped a 5-6 season last month, Anunda’s 88 solo tackles (11 for loss) and 81 assists led statewide sports writers to select the senior The Associated Press Class 6A Defensive Player of the Year.
Anunda leads seven other Tarrant County players among the All-State selections that include Mansfield running back Kennedy Brooks, Colleyville Heritage wide receiver Ke’von Brooks and Keller defensive lineman Houston Miller on the first team.
“It’s kind of surreal considering I was injured last year and then having to make it all the way back from that.” Anunda said. “Coming into this year, it was important for me to work back into a leadership role and that just meant making sure I worked hard every day to stay on the field.”
Peach said Anunda’s 5-foot-9, 195-pound size doesn’t come close to how big he plays on the field nor representative of his lone scholarship offer from Southeastern Oklahoma State.
“College coaches right now are having difficulty evaluating how he’ll fit into their defense because he has every tool except for the so-called size,” he said. “But they are quickly realizing that doesn’t matter for Matthew because he will thrive in any environment, he will and has thrived on just loving football and being passionate about football.”
Anunda’s statistics this season included two sacks, two forced fumbles, three pass breakups and one interception, indicative of his ability to impact all facets of Arlington’s defensive strategy.
“We made some adjustments, too, this season, but I think some of the credit starts with our defensive staff and the kids around Matthew,” Peach said. “We created a scheme that really allowed Matthew to free up and play the kind of instinctive football that gets you an honor like this.
“Still, you have to make the plays and Matthew is a player that is up to that kind of challenge. There were times we wanted him in coverage, times we needed him on the blitz but he’s such a good tackler we could ask him to do anything and he’d deliver.”
Perhaps most representative of Anunda’s ability was on special teams, where he had three blocked kicks this season.
“You know Matthew would still try to find me on the sidelines late in games and ask me if he could get a carry at running back,” Peach said. “It’s one of those things where we never had to ask him if he wanted to play and when it came to special teams, there was never a question if he was going to play.
“That’s an attitude and a performance very worthy of a Defensive Player of the Year.”
Class 6A All-state
Brycen Foreman, Austin Westlake, Sr.
Darta Lee, Fort Bend Hightower, Sr.
Greg Little, Allen, Sr.
Zach Shackleford, Belton, Sr.
Lucas Tribble, Southlake Carroll, Sr.
Ke’von Ahmad, Colleyville Heritage, Jr.
Devin Duvernay, Garland Sachse, Sr.
Sam Ehlinger, Austin Westlake, Jr.
Brandon Bailey, Odessa Permian, Sr.
Kennedy Brooks, Mansfield, Jr.
Trevor Speights, McAllen Memorial, Sr.
Cameron Dicker, Lake Travis, So.
Offensive Player of the Year: Sam Ehlinger, Austin Westlake
K’lavon Chaisson, Galena Park North Shore, Jr.
Elijah Earls, SA Northside Stevens, Sr.
Anthony Ekpe, Pflugerville Hendrickson, Sr.
Houston Miller, Keller, Sr.
Matthew Anunda, Arlington, Sr.
Keshon Cervantes, Amarillo Tascosa, Sr.
Daqualyn Thomas, Arlington Martin, Sr.
D’anthony Carter, SA Northside Stevens, Sr.
Isaiah Fields, Cibolo Steele, Sr.
Dar’won Hawkins, North Crowley, Sr.
John Mendoza, Edinburg North, Sr.
Anthony Thomas, Montgomery, Sr.
Tyler Dunlop, Hurst Bell, Sr.
Defensive Player of the Year: Matthew Anunda, Arlington
Patrick Blasingame, Colleyville Heritage, Sr.; Billy Honaker, Schertz Clemens, Sr.; Chris Owens, Arlington Lamar, Sr.; Austin Sargent, Rockwall, Sr.; Jack Sides, Dallas Highland Park, Sr.
Richie Rodriguez, EP Eastwood, Sr.; Joseph Ward, Waco Midway, Sr.
Shane Buechele, Arlington Lamar, Sr.; Jalen Hurts, Channelview, Sr.
Jaelin Ford, Amarillo, Soph.; Lil' Jordan Humphrey, Southlake Carroll, Sr.; Sammy Lintson, Deer Park, Sr.
Jackson Smith, Waco Midway, Sr.
Ricardo Miner, McAllen Memorial, Jr.; Jimmy Nelson III, Arlington Martin, Sr.; Michael Prescott, Colleyville Heritage, Sr.; Ty Shelby, Friendswood, Sr.
Hayden Harrison, Wolfforth Frenship, Sr.; Andrew Hyacinth, Galena Park North Shore, Sr.; Brandon Smyth, SA Northside Brandeis, Sr.
Deontay Anderson, Manvel, Sr.; Obi Eboh, Southlake Carroll, Sr.; Dominique Ramsey, Converse Judson, Sr.; Alex Shillow, Pflugerville, Sr.; Jordan Williams, Pflugerville Hendrickson, Sr.
Dillon Scherer, Klein Oak, Sr.
Honorable mention offense
Linemen: Jean Delance, North Mesquite; Dominic Deriggi, Galena Park North Shore; Cortez Ducksworth, CC King; Clarence Henderson, Dallas Skyline; Leyton Hernandez, CC King; Tope Imade, Arlington Bowie; Jesus Lopez, Laredo United; Tito Martinez, Laredo United; Austin Meyers, Manvel; Christian Navejar, Mission; Denzel Okafor, Lewisville; J'Don Robinson, Dallas Skyline; Tyrese Robinson, McKinney Boyd; Nick Sheldon, Waco Midway; Nick Walters, Colleyville Heritage.
Receivers/ends: Sam Crawford, Rockwall; Aaron Denson, Richland; LaDarius Dickens, Rowlett; Zach Farrar, Southlake Carroll; Josh Fink, Coppell; Derek Housler, Smithson Valley; Reed Klubnik, Austin Westlake; Logan Mann, SA Northside Stevens; Eric Ovalle, Laredo Alexander; David Sanchez II, Laredo United; Dillon Smith, Keller; Kaden Smith, Lewisville Marcus; Josh Wainwright, Austin Bowie.
Quarterbacks: Logan Bonner, Rowlett; Charlie Brewer, Lake Travis; Greg Eisworth, South Grand Prairie; Frank Harris, Schertz Clemens; Chris Robison, Mesquite Horn; Bryce Rivers, SA Northside Stevens; Ignazio Tellez, Laredo United; Tyler Vitt, SA MacArthur; Tristen Wallace, DeSoto; Jacoby Williams, Garland.
Running backs: Edwin Allen, FW Paschal; Ronald Awatt, Wolfforth Frenship; Caleb Broach, Rockwall; Juan Cisneros, Laredo LBJ; DeAndre Cook, Arlington Bowie; Jaylon Dukes, SA Northside Brandeis; Saevion Johnson, Pearland Dawson; Christian Mallard, SA Taft; Hasain Newsome, CC King; D'Vaughn Pennamon, Manvel; Peytton Pickett, Arlington Sam Houston; Kyle Porter, Katy; Abram Smith, Abilene; Trelon Smith, Cypress Ridge; Brandon Stephens, Plano; Emilio Tamez, Weslaco East; Tyler Tutt, Keller; Ja'Ron Wilson, Euless Trinity.
Kickers: Max Allan, Colleyville Heritage; Patrick Grady, Arlington Martin; Luke Hogan, Keller; Tanner Lange, Richardson Berkner; Chris Naggar, Arlington.
Honorable mention defense
Linemen: Stevin Fields, SA Johnson; Andrew Fitzgerald, Lewisville Marcus; Elias Garcia, Austin Westlake; Eric Gonzalez, CC King; Mauricio Gutierrez, Laredo Alexander; Jayden Hutchings, Lake Travis; Mark Jackson, Cibolo Steele; Joseph Lamott, Cedar Hill; Ken McLaurin, Denton Ryan; Kaleb Nunez, Midland Lee; Sammy Ochoa, Lake Travis; Levi Onwuzurike, Allen; Bryce Peoples, North Crowley; Jacob Piel, Wolfforth Frenship; Alton Robinson, Converse Judson; Brooks Roy, SA Reagan; John Samples, Tyler Lee; Luke Termin, Rockwall; Traver Vliem, Midland; Joe Wallace, Dallas Skyline; Cailon Washington, North Crowley.
Linebacks: Kyle Andersen, SA Reagan; Quintelro Baker, Houston Reagan; Stephon Barclift, SA Roosevelt; Keith Bazzle, Round Rock; Jalil Bethel, Killeen; Michael Carrillo, Denton Guyer; Tyreke Davis, Denton Ryan; Steven De Leon, Mission High; Sam Hinojosa, McAllen Memorial; Dontavious Jackson, Alief Elsik; Kailon Jones, North Crowley; Clifton Lewis, Fort Bend Hightower; Tony Luna, Laredo LBJ; Houston Miller, Keller; Pelini Nau, Colleyville Heritage; Joshua Nguyen, Odessa Permian; Robert Revels, Houston Reagan; Alexander Rodriguez, SA Northside Brennan; Delchaun Rushing, League City Clear Springs; Luis Sanchez, La Joya Palmview; Mohamed Sanogo, Plano West; Dharius Timmons, Denton Guyer; Mauricio Vazquez, Laredo Alexander; Nick Watts, Denton Ryan; Braydon Webb, McKInney Boyd; Ronnell Wilson, Abilene; Jack Youngblood, Midland.
Defensive backs: Austin Allen, Laredo Alexander; Carlos Cantu, Laredo Alexander; Isaac de la Fuente, Laredo United South; Alvin Green, DeSoto; Reid Harrison-Ducros, Colleyville Heritage; Austin Hiller, Lake Travis; Uryan Hudson, Manvel; Landry Hutchins, Keller; Bryce Jackson, Denton Guyer; Brandon Johnson, Dallas Skyline; Jaylon Jones, Allen; Mack Kelley, Austin Westlake; Jared Mayden, Garland Sachse; Devontre McGarity, SA Northside Brennan; Kolbi McGary, Cedar Hill; Trevon Moehring-Woodard, Smithson Valley; Eric Monroe, Galena Park North Shore; Alex Plunk, Amarillo Tascosa; Jordan Porter, Colleyville Heritage; Fabian Rodriguez, Los Fresnos; Makyle Sanders, Tyler Lee; Daireon Smith, SA East Central; Des Smith, Odessa Permian; Anthony Taylor, Allen; Derrick Tucker, Manvel; Jax Welch, Odessa Permian; Skyler Wetzel, SA Reagan; Collin Wilder, Katy.
Punters: Holden Lyons, Colleyville Heritage; Chris Naggar, Arlington; Jake Oldroyd, Southlake Carroll.