These Aragon kids are all right.
After two lopsided losses to start the season, the Dons (2-2 overall) have flipped the script by scoring two straight non-league blowout victories of their own.
Friday night, Aragon got its money’s worth in a 40-0 home win over Saratoga (0-4) by thrusting sophomore running back Ivan Nisa into the fold.
Nisa had a banner night, rushing six times for 122 yards and four touchdowns in his varsity debut. It’s the best single-game touchdown total he’s ever amassed in his life. And, what’s more, he didn’t even throw up prior to the game — unlike the six junior-varsity games he played in the spring of the 2020-21 season alongside current varsity quarterback Dylan Daniel.
“He would puke before every game, which was so funny because he’s so good,” Daniel said. “He would come on the field and just dominate, like he’d been playing football his entire life.”
Nisa has been playing football for years, but only converted to running back last season.
“He’s a great player,” Aragon head coach Steve Sell said. “Ivan, despite his athleticism, he’s still a kid. And he only had six games on the JV last year — right? — they had a shortened season. We didn’t need him desperately, and we had kind of talked about trying to figure out when was the best time to bring him up. … This was the ideal game for him.”
Still just 14 years old — he turns 15 on Oct. 12 — Nisa had to get a special waiver to play at the varsity level. At 6-3, 165 pounds, he looks the part. And he showed off his wheels Friday by finishing off his night with two spectacular runs.
Nisa’s first two scores were short-yardage grinders, a 4-yard bolt through the middle to get Aragon on the board in the first quarter, and a 1-yard blast to make it 26-0 in the second quarter. But when the Dons got the ball back quickly on a Saratoga three-and-out, the sophomore electrified on the first play of the following possession with a 62-yard scoring run.
After Aragon recovered a fumble two plays later, Nisa would hit paydirt again, sweeping around the left side and breaking several tackles — including a brilliant shake downfield with a 360 spin and a straight-arm — for a 42-yard score.
“The play we ran, we made some adjustments to it right before I went in,” Nisa said. “Going into the play, I didn’t know if I was going to mess it up. … But I’ve got to owe it all to my blockers, to be honest. I was able to read the gaps good, and there were gaps I was able to cut on.”
Senior running back Mone Hokafonu added five carries for 36 yards and two touchdowns.
The Dons outgained Saratoga 366-49. Aragon scored all 40 of its points in the first half. The entire second half was played with a running clock.
Nisa’s breakout performance bodes well toward his remaining with the varsity squad. He was called up to replace injured junior running back Jared Walsh. Now, it looks as though Nisa might be here to stay.
“That’s the plan,” Sell said. “I think tonight probably went a long way towards that. It can be intimidating for a young sophomore … to play varsity football.”
Daniel is a similar story — sans the puking — having played wide receiver throughout his youth football days with Next Level Flag Football, a team many of the current varsity Dons grew up playing for. Daniel only converted to QB at the request of Sell when he arrived at Aragon.
“He’s doing a great job,” Sell said of his first-year varsity junior quarterback. “There’s a lot of different motions. You have … four real threats … so he does a really good job of distributing the ball. And there’s a lot to it. He may not put up the big passing yards but being able to execute all the fakes, and all the handoffs, and everything is important. And his accuracy as a passer is pretty good.”
Daniel was 4-of-6 passing for 63 yards. He is one week removed from throwing two touchdown passes to junior Lloyd Walter in last week’s 41-7 victory over Woodside.
It was Walter who used to throw touchdown passes to Daniel, when the two were grade-schoolers with Next Level. The two are football lifers. And Daniel’s football IQ has helped him get up to speed under center in a hurry.
“Honestly, it’s been huge — insane,” Daniel said. “It’s been spending a lot of time on my phone looking at Hudl (scouting films), looking at the plays and looking at their defense. I’ve kind of gotten the hang of it and I’ve gotten to learn more about football in the past two months than basically in the rest of my entire life, just being QB. … It’s been a huge learning curve but it’s definitely getting better now.”
And he has got a feel for the leadership role as well, as he demonstrated while celebrating each of Nisa’s touchdowns with the newest varsity standout.
“After every single touchdown, I pulled him aside and I pulled his helmet, and I was like: ‘Hey! Do you still want to go back to JV?’” Daniel said. “He’s like: ‘No.’ I was like: ‘I didn’t think so.’”