On a night the Horizon student body welcomed in a new Homecoming king and queen, senior return man Ryan Neel proved to be true royalty in Horizon’s 24-6 victory over Cactus Shadows on Friday night.
Horizon’s offense continually shot itself in the foot with untimely penalties that negated two touchdown drives against the Falcons (2-5, 2-2) so Neel took matters into his own hands midway through the second quarter.
With his team already in front 10-0, Neel calmly let a Connor Folts’ punt bounce twice at his feet before scooping up the wobbly football and racing 80 yards untouched down the left sideline.
“When I picked up the ball, I just made a move, saw a big wall and a lot of green grass in front of me,” Neel said of his game-changing touchdown return. “Special teams are a big part of our game plan. We try to make an impact, whether it’s scoring points or blocking kicks. It can be a back-breaker for the other team, so any time you can get a big play from special teams it can be huge for momentum like it was tonight.”
Neel wasn’t the only one who had a special night for the Huskies (6-1, 4-0). Fresh off their 54-3 trouncing of Sunnyslope last week, Doug Shaffer’s defense stifled a short-handed Falcons’ squad. The Huskies held pass-happy quarterback Bryce Kinsler -- who threw for 639 yards two weeks ago against Prescott -- to a pedestrian 207 yards through the air on 41 pass attempts.
Horizon’s speed up front was an issue for Kinsler all night, as the Huskies sacked the senior five times while also forcing a key fumble on the Falcons’ first drive of the night.
“Our defensive coaches and our defense played a great game,” coach Shaffer said after his team’s sixth win of 2012. “They came in our red zone three or four times, and we just didn’t allow them to score.”
It wasn’t all a bed of roses for Horizon during their comfortable 18-point win. The Huskies committed a season-high 19 penalties for a staggering 194 yards. In the third quarter alone, the teams combined for zero points, 12 penalties and 148 combined yards.
“That was one of the most lopsided officiating games I’ve seen,” said Shaffer. “I’ll have to see the film though to see how many of the calls were legitimate.”
For second-year coach Greg Davis, Friday’s result really came as no surprise. The team was forced to play without their leading rusher, senior RJ Anderson. And to add insult to injury, senior wideout and leading receiver Kyle Gladstone – six catches for 93 yards – was held out of the second half due to a concussion he sustained on a vicious hit late in the second quarter.
“We had some major injuries tonight, so weren’t really trying to go, go, go against these guys,” said Davis. “Our style is kind of like a muddle huddle, we just tried to lock them in to a defense and then make adjustments off of that.
“They just brought a lot of pressure. And, we thought we could get more quick hitters, but they did a great job in man coverage taking that away. That’s just a good football team.”
Horizon’s aerial assault wasn’t really a factor in Friday’s rout over the Falcons, but sophomore quarterback Dalton Sneed and senior running back Charlie Quinn took to the ground game time and time again.
Sneed, making his second career start, had a 15-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a remarkable 62-yard scamper to set up another scoring drive in the first half. Quinn didn’t get into the end zone Friday, but his 22 carries for 156 yards paced the Huskies’ offense on a night when yellow flags were aplenty.
Horizon 24, Cactus Shadows 6
HORIZON 7 10 0 7 - 24
CACTUS SHADOWS 0 0 0 6 - 6
First Downs: Cactus Shadows 16, Horizon 14
Rushes-yards: Cactus Shadows 21-61, Horizon 35-253
Passing yards: Cactus Shadows 207, Horizon 168
Comp-Att-Int: Cactus Shadows 18-41-0, Horizon 9-13-0
Fumbles-lost: Cactus Shadows 2-1, Horizon 1-0
Penalty- yards: Cactus Shadows 4-50, Horizon 19-194
HHS- 15-yard run by Dalton Sneed (McAtamney kick)
HHS- 33-yard kick by Danny McAtamney
HHS- 80-yard punt return by Ryan Neel (McAtamney kick)
HHS- 54-yard catch by Luke Quinn from Dalton Sneed (McAtamney kick)
CSHS- 11-yard catch by Matt Hartlen from Bryce Kinsler