Outlook: While it’s a new era at Horizon, a duplication of last year’s success would be a nice feat for the football program. Doug Shaffer led the Huskies to an 8-3 record a season ago and a Division II playoff berth, but stepped away one year earlier than expected because of health issues. Enter Kris Heavner, the former Arizona quarterback who was most recently the coach at Santa Rita.
Horizon loses Victor and Charlie Quinn, who accounted for much of the team’s offense a year ago, but has some nice pieces returning. Dalton Sneed did a solid job under center as a sophomore a season ago (1,040 yards passing, 14 TD, 5 INT) and should improve with a year under his belt. He has several receivers back, led by Mark Robinson (353 yards, 3 TD). Jake Grant is one of the top offensive linemen in the East Valley. Heavner was pleased with the way the team picked up his schemes in the offseason.
“Offensively, the boys have been doing a great job throughout the summer,” he said. “We’re going to have a lot of speed and play with a fast tempo.”
Only two of the team’s top-12 tacklers from a season ago return, although both are impact talents. Linebacker Kristian Salinas recorded 62 tackles and 10 sacks for the Huskies as a junior while defensive back Luke Quinn had a team-high 76 tackles and added two interceptions.
The schedule is manageable, with tough games against Marcos de Niza, Pinnacle and Desert Mountain on the docket but several winnable matchups as well. The personnel is there, and Horizon’s season may depend on how well the players can adjust to Heavner’s coaching.
“Obviously, this being my first year, you have to install schemes, bring new coaches on staff and create the culture you want,” he said. “The players have done a great job of buying into what we have asked of them from day one.”
Division III, Section III
Coach: Kris Heavner
Last year’s record: 8-3, lost to Apollo in the first round of the Division II state tournament
Returning Starters: 7 on offense/4 on defense
Top returners: QB Dalton Sneed (59-96, 1,040 yards, 14 TD, 5 INT); WR Mark Robinson (15 rec., 353 yards, 3 TD); DB Luke Quinn (76 tackles, 2 INT); LB Kristian Salinas (62 tackles, 9 TFL, 10 sacks); OL Jake Grant.
Aug. 30 vs. Marcos de Niza (6 p.m.); Sept. 6 at Corona del Sol; Sept. 12 (Thur.) vs. Millennium; Sept. 20 at Paradise Valley; Sept. 27 vs. Desert Mountain; Oct. 4 at Mountain Ridge; Oct. 11 at North Canyon; Oct. 18 vs. Boulder Creek; Oct. 25 at Pinnacle; Nov. 1 vs. Sandra Day O'Connor
Aug. 30 vs. Marcos de Niza: The season begins with a tough matchup against perennial power Marcos de Niza. The Padres lost considerable talent from last year’s semifinal team, so Horizon needs to pounce on that inexperience. Containing Marcos de Niza quarterback Josh Eckley will be a chore, but Horizon can make a big statement with a win in its opener.
Oct. 25 at Pinnacle: The Pioneers have running back Josh Hoekstra returning and impressive quarterback Brian Lewerke taking over. This will be one of the biggest tests for the Horizon defense, and it must keep Pinnacle in check in order to have a chance at the upset.
Sept. 20 at Paradise Valley: Horizon has a few games on the schedule it should win easily as well as a few in which it will be the underdog. The game against Paradise Valley could be one of the more closely-contested matchups, and it will be key to take care of business in this one to help improve playoff positioning.