After a 6-4 season in 2017, Horizon football took a step back last year going just 2-8 (1-4 in conference). Anticipating a positive bounce-back campaign this fall, the Hawks and head coach Frank …
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After a 6-4 season in 2017, Horizon football took a step back last year going just 2-8 (1-4 in conference). Anticipating a positive bounce-back campaign this fall, the Hawks and head coach Frank Ybarra enter the year with plenty to prove.
“We need to play together,” 16-year Horizon coach Ybarra said last week in a phone interview. “We just had our senior meeting, and that’s a big topic they brought up. They felt like the team wasn’t together last year and lacked some leadership. They have committed to be better leaders and stay tight-knit.”
Sixteen seniors surface the core of the Horizon roster matched with an eager mindset to turn things around. With an offense that accumulated only 21.9 points per game a season ago, the Hawks, despite their two wins, lost by seven or less in four contests. Getting back to the bread and butter of a dominant running game could be the key to a turnaround in 2019.
Led by senior center Hunter Fletcher (missed majority of last season due to a knee injury) as well as guards Enrique Chavez (senior, two-time all-conference player) and Trey Toledo (junior, can play any spot on the o-line), Horizon anticipates dominating games up the middle. Junior tackle Mike Beeson will also play a factor on the outside in pass protection and maybe the best prospect for the next level on the team.
“Offensive line-wise we feel is a strength for us right now,” Ybarra said. “We only lost one (starter) from last year. Our three guys inside should hopefully be able to move some people.”
The questions for this offense most likely will be in the backfield at quarterback and tailback. With a lack of depth at fullback this season, the I-formation styled group will probably see more one-back sets this year with junior Zachary Yoder expected to get most of the rushes. Senior Alexander Vannote and sophomore Jurrien Brooks will also get some carries, particularly in potential two-back sets.
At quarterback, it has been a close battle all summer. Belief is senior Jacob Loomis, and junior Blake Rosenbach will continue to fight for the job through preseason camp starting Aug. 12. The goal for Ybarra is to get the ball out of these signal caller’s hands quickly to playmakers around them. One of these up-and-coming playmakers is junior receiver, Liam Francis, who has excelled in offseason work.
On the other side of the field, a new look 3-4 defensive scheme will take over a defense that had been a 4-2-5 a season ago. Allowing the unit to disguise where the pressure will be coming from is the priority for Ybarra and the linebacking group this season.
Leading that defense from the middle will be speedy senior linebacker Aaron Rhea, senior Ian Barela and junior all-conference outside linebacker Xavier Barber.
A push up the middle from senior space-swallower, Dade Wimmer, as well as talented cornerbacks Gabe Sanchez (senior, all-conference player last year) and Francis anchoring the secondary, this group as a whole, is primed for a significant improvement.
With talented juniors sprinkled all over the Hawks’ roster, Ybarra and his staff have awaited the arrival of this full group that combined to go 20-0 the last two years at the junior-varsity level. The time has finally come and potentially, new confidence as well.
“The excitement is really high. Our junior class, when they were freshmen, went 10-0. And last year, we had eight of those kids playing on varsity, but the rest of them played JV and went 10-0 again. What that group may lack in size, speed, or whatever, they have something special amongst themselves as a team in where they just don’t lose. They have that competitive spirit, so as a staff, we are excited to see what they do now with them all on the varsity team this year.”
“Also, our motto this year is redemption. We felt like we kind of tarnished some of the stuff that has been built around here, in the history of Horizon by last year’s performance. The kids have been motivated to redeem themselves and to bring back the excitement of Horizon football.”
Horizon kicks off their season at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 30 at non-conference opponent Fountain-Fort Carson (5-6 last season).
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