Sept. 19 at Five Star Stadium, the night was a frustrating one for the Horizon football team looking to get back on track against ThunderRidge (2-2). The saying “it’s hard to win if you don’t …
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Sept. 19 at Five Star Stadium, the night was a frustrating one for the Horizon football team looking to get back on track against ThunderRidge (2-2). The saying “it’s hard to win if you don’t score” was in full swing Thursday night as the Hawks — despite a fantastic defensive showing — fell, 21-0.
“That has been the story of our season,” Horizon coach Frank Ybarra said of the inconsistency of the offense postgame. “We haven’t been able to bounce back — it’s really frustrating. The defense is playing their hearts out, and it seems like every time we get something going on offense, something bad happens. It showed tonight — again.
In the first half, the Horizon offensive unit accounted for only 69 yards on 28 plays (2.46 yards per play). No turnovers, however, compared to ThunderRidge’s two kept the home team in the game at 7-0 going to the break.
A definite offensive adjustment during the intermission from Ybarra and his staff displayed itself in the first drive, playing with much more pace. Seven positive plays later driving 35 yards into Grizzlies territory, the first Horizon turnover of the night stalled all momentum, that never was found again.
The defense led by senior linebacker Aaron Rhea didn’t fold though. Accumulating 12 tackles and controlling the flow of the Hawks, the veteran hasn’t wavered in his first two contests of the year after missing the prior two.
“We knew he was going to be our spark-plug and he’s come back hungrier than ever. Last week was his first game, and he was our leading tackler,” Ybarra said. “This week I’m assuming he’s probably our leading tackler because he just has a motor that doesn’t stop. He’s just a phenomenal athlete. He’s fast, he’s tenacious, he’s relentless and his whole mentality is built for defensive football.”
Holding ThunderRidge dual-threat senior quarterback Brent Huber in check the majority of the affair, Horizon allowed 144 yards on 21 plays (290 yards total) in the second half. A no-call on a 54-yard scamper (1:27 left) by Huber — when it appeared his body was clearly on the ground — tallied yardage to the defense that realistically (taking away the 54-yard TD) allowed only 4.3 ypp in the second half. But three turnovers in the half by the offense put the game out of reach.
Also showing out for the defense of the Hawks, seniors Tyler Merciez (five tackles), Ian Barela (five tackles) and Dade Wimmer were active upfront on the line all night. An interception from junior rising star Liam Francis as well — in the secondary — gives the Hawks a solid core at all three levels of the defense.
“They have been doing it all year. We’ve given up two touchdown drives this year longer than 55 yards, and they didn’t have any tonight — except that one there. I’m not going to count that against my defense,” the 16-year Hawks’ leader said. “They have been playing lights out all year, and the problem is we can’t give them the ball at the 35-yard line all the time. As good as they have been playing, they are getting worn out.”
The schedule also doesn’t ease up for Horizon moving forward. Hosting unbeaten Regis Jesuit (4-0) Sept. 26, the Hawks hope for a repeat performance of a season ago when they defeated the Raiders, 26-22.
“The kids just have to decide if they want to execute. We had chances tonight and unfortunately it doesn’t get easier. Eight of our opponents made the playoffs last year, and we have Regis next. They could be the best team we play all year, and it’s going to take perfection to win.”
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