AURORA - The Horizon football team felt it missed out on an a golden opportunity last season, and the Hawks’ seniors weren’t about to let another chance slip away.
Senior defensive end Easton Robbins stood in front of the team before last Friday’s Class 5A first round playoff game and delivered an inspirational speech about laying it on the line for 48 minutes, and the rest of the seniors followed suit.
Quarterback Auston Stackhouse threw four touchdown passes and wide receiver Dustin Rivas scored three touchdowns, including returning an interception for a score, to help the No. 21 Hawks upset the 12th-seeded Raiders 47-24 at Aurora Public Schools Stadium.
“This group of seniors knew they let one slip away last year,” Horizon’s coach Frank Ybarra said. “And they feel sorry for the seniors last year, but they weren’t about to let it slip away (Friday). They were just bound and determined.”
Next up for Horizon (7-3 overall) will be a matchup with No. 5 Arapahoe (9-1), which beat Heritage 42-7 on Saturday in the opening round. The second-round game is at the North Stadium on Friday.
“I think it all worked out for the best,” Rivas said. “We are motivated and we know what we can do.”
The Hawks’ explosive offense was taking care of business early and did it by establishing the run game.
Dante Chand rushed for 107 yards in the first half and then junior Jordan Iacovetta took over in the second, breaking loose for 194 yards - including a 52-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“We knew we had to come out and run right at them,” Ybarra said. “It worked early, Dante was just pounding the ball and when we were getting packed with nine guys in the box we turned Jordan loose. He made some good plays outside and Auston had some great throws.”
Stackhouse found Steven Sumey for a 56-yard touchdown pass in the opening quarter and then Rivas and Stackhouse connected on back-to-back scores in the second to give Horizon a 21-6 advantage at the half.
The lone first-half touchdown for Rangeview came on a 56-yard run by Patrique Hall in the second quarter.
The Raiders gained the momentum at the beginning of the second half after forcing Horizon to go three-and-out on the opening drive. Armon Brown scored a pair of touchdowns for the Raiders, but the Hawks responded. On third down, Stackhouse and Rivas connected on a 25-yard gain and then three plays later Stackhouse found Greg Gonzales for a 15-yard touchdown pass to give Horizon a 28-18 advantage.
Rivas, who had two interceptions in the game, sealed the victory after picking off a pass in the fourth quarter and returning it for a touchdown. It was one of four turnovers for the Raiders. Dominick Castiglione also had an interception, while Robbins and Josh Skinner each recovered fumbles. Gunnar Campbell had two sacks and Robbins added another.
“We have a lot of explosive players on our team. We aren’t just a one-dimensional team; our defense is capable of making plays too,” Rivas said.
Rivas had four catches for 86 yards, while Stackhouse threw for 216 yards and also scored on a quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter.