There was one team full of Longhorns on Friday night at Happy State Bank Field at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium, but they were outdone by Canyon’s lone Horn.
Walker Horn, who’s better known as a linebacker for the Canyon Eagles, was pushed into duty as a running back for most of Friday’s District 3-4A game against the Caprock Longhorns. He responded with the team’s best rushing performance of the season, running for 173 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries as the Eagles soared to a decisive 34-7 victory over Caprock.
Horn’s gritty and perhaps unexpected performance placed Canyon firmly in the middle of the 3-4A playoff picture, as the Eagles improved to 7-1 and 2-1 in district. Caprock, meanwhile, after two consecutive playoff appearances, dropped to 3-5 and 0-3, and the Longhorns will need some serious help to make the postseason.
Canyon’s grinding running game trumped Caprock’s fancy passing game and said a lot about where the two teams stand right now. But it was probably the performance of the Canyon defense that was the story, since the Eagles did as good a job of shutting down Caprock’s high-flying offense as any team over the last three seasons.
“I was so proud of our defense and our preparation this week,” Canyon coach Blake Bryant said. “To play that well against an offense of that caliber and explosiveness is really exciting.”
Considering how productive both offenses were entering the game, there were few fireworks in this game. After a scoreless first quarter, Canyon scored on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter to take 14-0 halftime lead.
But the tone was perhaps set on the first play of the second quarter. Caprock’s Michael Guerrero tried to hit Montrel Young with a deep pass, but was intercepted by Canyon’s Autry Dowd, who took the ball at the Canyon 20-yard line and returned it 39 yards to the Caprock 41.
Four plays later, Horn bulled in from 5 yards out to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
It was apparent that this game wouldn’t be a repeat of Caprock’s 63-61 overtime win over the Eagles last season.
“I feel as a defense we were prepared all week,” said Dowd, who had two interceptions as Canyon picked off Guerrero four times. “Caprock scored 63 on us last year and we felt we had a duty not to let that happen again.”
And it helped that the Eagles literally stayed grounded with Horn in the second half. With Steven Hansen suffering from an injured shin, he became a blocking back as Horn toted the mail, rushing for 118 yards in the second half, as the Eagles protected their 14-0 halftime lead mainly with Horn carrying the ball.
“I didn’t know what to expect but all I’ve got to say is that the line did a great job,” Horn said. “I think (guard) Trey Barrientos probably still has my handprint on his back because I kept it there following him all night.”
Horn scored from a yard out to give Canyon a 20-0 lead midway through the third quarter and capped the scoring with a 15-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Caprock, meanwhile, barely resembled the offensive juggernaut which has seemed able to score at will, win or lose. The Longhorns looked like they could make a game of it when Addison Bustos scored on a 3-yard run late in the third quarter to cut Caprock’s lead to 20-7, but that was their only score.
As much as anything, the Longhorns appeared one-dimensional, as they ran for only 26 yards.
“We were just out of rhythm and it’s a sign of when you start losing you start pressing,” said Caprock coach Seth Parr, whose team has lost five straight. “We’ve got to take some pressure off Michael and be able to run the football.”
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Caprock 0 0 7 0 — 7
Canyon 0 14 6 14 — 34
Canyon—Walker Horn 5 run (Ryan Guevara kick)
Canyon—Issac Garland 29 pass from Cade McCallie (Guevara kick)
Canyon—Horn 1 run (run failed)
Caprock—Addison Bustos 3 run (Hollabaugh kick)
Canyon—Graeson Cook 32 pass from McCallie (Guevara kick)
Canyon—Horn 15 run (Guevara kick)
First Downs 13 19
Rushing 26 256
Passing 224 100
Total yards 250 356
C-A-I 20-37-4 7-9-0
Punts 3-32.7 2-42.5
Fumbles-lost `1-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 6-68 4-29
Rushing—Caprock: Caleb Estrada 9-16, Bustos 2-7, Michael Guerrero 7-(-8), Shawn Stewart 2-11. Canyon: Steven Hansen 5-20, McCallie 12-37, Horn 23-173, Derrick Spencer 3-26.
Passing—Caprock: Guerrero 19-36-4-208, Santiago Nunez 1-1-0-16. Canyon: McCallie 7-9-0-100.
Receiving—Caprock: Montrel Young 3-32, Bustos 3-37, Isaiah Betterton 4-61, Caleb Hollabaugh 2-11, Tavi Jeffries 2-13, Estrada 5-70, Austin Cruz 1-0. Canyon: Clay Erwin 1-(-3), Thomas Garland 1-3, Cook 3-49, I. Garland 2-51.