GAME OF THE WEEK
FRIDAY, NOV. 3
• 7 p.m. Windermere (3-6) vs. Horizon (4-5)
FRIDAY, NOV. 3
• 7 p.m Olympia (7-2) at South Lake (2-7)
• 7 p.m. Foundation Academy (6-3) at West Oaks Academy (4-5)
• 7 p.m. The First Academy (5-4) vs. Windermere Prep (1-6)
• 7:30 p.m. West Orange (3-6) vs. Osceola (3-6)
• 7 p.m. Lake Buena Vista (4-4) vs. Colonial (1-8)
Since August, the Horizon Hawks have had this game circled on the calendar.
Now in their third season, the Hawks will face their Horizon West rival — Windermere — at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, at Deputy Scott Pine Community Park. And with Windermere’s new on-campus stadium approved by the Orange County Commission, this could be the final game the Wolverines play on their former home field.
“This is still a new school, it’s our third year open, so we are kind of always young,” head football coach Dennis Thomas said. “But, I never make that excuse for anything. … The advantage (of being young) would be that it’s a clean slate, and you are just trying to build their minds with no dirt on that, no drama on that. … And when you have that kind of thing, you just get to build.”
As in years past, the defense continues to be a strength for the Hawks.
“For defense, I feel like we’ve been pretty good this year; we’ve always had a really good defense since our school started,” senior linebacker Bo Kenney said. “Offensively, we’ve been a little bit more struggling this year. But we are picking it up. We are inputting a lot more stuff, and we are getting a lot more technical — working on the little things such as getting out and getting the little yards, not those big runs. Just getting the little things.”
“Offensively, we run the ball, we have a running back who is one of the top in the state as far as rushing yards,” Thomas said. “Defensively, we bring pressure, and we have a pretty good linebacker.”
Through the years, the Hawks have had a 2-8 overall season record (2021-22), a 7-3 overall season record (2022-23) and currently are 4-3 this year.
“It’s just our mentality,” Kenney said. “Our first year, we didn’t have seniors, so we felt we were just the young (team) and the brand-new school. We’ve never played together, we didn’t know (one another). So, over the summer, we got more team chemistry, and we got to know each other, we became family. So, it’s becoming closer and working hard together.”
Hard work, dedication and perseverance have been key for Horizon season after season, and that has brought a sense of trust and confidence to the players in the team.
“I think we just work hard, there’s no secret sauce of anything,” Thomas said. “If there’s a secret to anything, it’s just working our butts off. We work hard, and we believe in ourselves. We always have a chance in any game.”
Of course, as with any young team, Horizon’s coaches also are challenged with teaching the game to players new to the sport.
“If we teach the game, I feel like they learn the game,” Thomas said. “One of the things I say is, ‘If you can say something 1,000 times, they won’t get it until 1,001. So, you just have to keep doing it.’”
The Hawks are excited to end their regular season against the Wolverines.
“It’s a big game, it’s a rivalry game,” Thomas said. “We’ve won the last two, and we are going to work our butts off to try to win it three in a row.”
“It’s a big game for us, for me, especially, because I played (for Windermere) my freshman year,” Kenney said. “My first game that I ever played was on their field, and my last game is going to be on that same field. So, it’s definitely a big game. It’s a full-circle moment for me.”