Dawg Gone Impressive: Horizon Rolls to 5A Title

The Horizon Huskies magic carpet ride finally touched down on a chilly, December night hoisting a gold ball at midfield of Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe after defeating Tucson Salpointe 38-28 to win the 5A State Championship.

“This is really special,” Horizon head coach Litten said after the game. “This is one of the greatest seasons I’ve ever been a part of. It’s been a wild ride since March. It’s a euphoric feeling.”

Things started slowly offensively as both teams exchanged stalled drives and a series of punts before the top-seeded Huskies (12-2) broke the ice.

Horizon, who tallied 94 first quarter yards, struck first when quarterback Skyler Partridge scrambled to his left and spotted Ethan Tinsley in the back corner of the end zone for quick 7-0 lead following the PAT.

The drive seemed to ignite Litten’s high-powered offense.

On the Huskies next possession Partridge hit speedy Cole Linyard in the flat and he did the rest, outracing the Lancers’ secondary down the sideline for a 66-yard score to make it 14-0. Star tight end Matthew Klopfenstein helped seal the edge with a beautiful block.

The first half dominance continued, after a series of chunk plays, Wesley Lambert took it in on the stretch play from a yard out and it was all Horizon after the lead ballooned to 21-0.

Salpointe star Treyson Bourguet engineered a late drive but a last-second field goal hooked left, securing the Huskies’ first half shutout.

Partridge was sharp through the first 24 minutes of game action, completing 13-16 for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Linyard, his favorite target, had seven receptions for 121 yards and the touchdown. 

Salpointe mustered only 135 total yards as Bourguet struggled, completing just four of 12 passes for 31 yards. Horizon was able to consistently push the pocket, despite being fairly conservative with their blitz packages.

The second half started much faster than the first for the Lancers.

A roughing the passer penalty on 4th-down extended the drive and talented senior running back Anthony Willhite got Salpointe on the board with a 17-yard scoring run. 

The Lancers then forced a quick Horizon three-and-out and blocked a punt which Damian Coley fell on in the end zone. After the PAT, it was 21-14 and the Salpointe fans who made the trip from Tucson roared their approval from the east stands at Sun Devil Stadium.

Horizon would weather the storm as Partridge would throw his third touchdown of the game, finding Chase Jung in the back of the end zone on the final play of the third quarter.

Bourguet’s rough night would continue. His fumble early the fourth quater would be recovered by Horizon inside Lancer territory.  It would lead to a Grady Gross field goal to push the margin to 31-14.

Salpointe would keep fighting but in the end the Horizon offense was simply too much.

Partridge, who finished with 319 total yards and three touchdowns, would take a knee for the final snaps before the Huskies streamed on the field in celebration, dousing Litten with water near midfield. 

“We really had them dialed in all week,” Partridge explained when asked about the offensive explosion. “I’ve got to thank my o-line. They went crazy tonight. Protected me the entire game. Our skill players…that’s what they do. They’re just like that.”

Lambert rushed 33 times for 143 yards and a touchdown. Linyard caught 15 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown.

Bourguet, under pressure most of the game, was 16-27 for 202 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 52 yards and a score but, for the most part, was held in check by a spirited Horizon defense.

“Unbelieveable,” Litten said of his defense’s effort. “We realize that Treyson’s magical in terms of when he gets out of the pocket and scrambles around. Our gameplan was to stay on [guys] and make Treyson run around and corral him and spy him.”

The Lancers finish 11-3 under second-year coach Eric Rogers.