Horn enters Friday night as the underdog.
It is not a characterization of a role that insults the Jaguars, rather, it is one they have embraced during the last five weeks.
Horn ignored those that had written them off after a 0-7 start and they did it once again when they began their playoff run.
Now, after back-to-back victories over Temple and Wylie, the Jaguars (5-7) hope to send another message to their naysayers when they meet Spring Westfield (11-1) in a Class 6A Division II Region II semifinal game at 7 p.m. Friday at Sam Houston State’s Elliott T. Bowers Stadium in Huntsville.
“We played some great football teams this year. I don’t think anybody has played as many good football teams as we have,” Horn head coach Mike Overton said. “So we know what it takes to be competitive and play against the best teams in the state of Texas and that is the big thing about our team right now is we’re confident, and as long as we can remain confident, keep working, keep the focus ahead, we’re going to be a able to compete against anybody.”
Horn got another standout effort from quarterback Jermaine Givens a week ago against Wylie.
For the second time in as many weeks, he topped the 300-yard mark through the air, completing 19-of-25 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Givens was also his usual self on the ground, carrying the ball 20 times for 157 yards and a pair of scores.
For the season, Givens has now eclipsed 3,000 total yards (1,546 passing, 1,508 rushing) to go along with 20 touchdowns.
Givens’ late-season surge has coincided with those around him elevating their games.
Esaias Taylor had a pair of touchdowns on the ground, N’Kowsi Emory had a rushing and receiving score and Cam Jackson had a game-breaking 75-yard touchdown catch.
In addition, Reagan Nickerson (5-93) and Jaelon Tenison (5-76) turned in big efforts on the outside for the second week in a row, as both have more catches in the two playoff games than they did during the regular season.
Horn is averaging 51.3 points in its last four games and will try to keep that going against a solid Spring Westfield defense.
The Mustangs are allowing only 12.1 points on the season and have posted three shutouts. In last week’s 24-17 overtime win over Cypress Ranch, Westfield allowed only 276 total yards and got a key 74-yard interception return by Dyllon Peavy.
The Mustangs have not put up overly gaudy individual stats, though they do average 32.7 points per game.
Quarterback Ra’Quon Washington is completing 60 percent of his passes (90-of-151) for 1,689 yards and 17 touchdowns with only two interceptions.
Rayshawn James (103-638, 11 TDs) has paced the ground game with help from Washington (88-342, 8 TDs) and Dexter Johnson (59-297, 5 TDs).
Malachi Jones is the big-play threat on the outside, averaging 25.8 yards per catch (28-723, 7 TDs), Nakeo Thomas is another solid option (23-298) and James (18-254) is also a factor.
The Horn defense had some issues with Wylie quarterback Rashad Dixon in the first half last week, but solved it as the game progressed, allowing just one score in the final two quarters.
Larry Donnell had a game-changing interception in the end zone, Quavon Grant recorded 17 tackles and Kendrick Blackshire had 13 tackles and a sack.
As the defensive line has improved, the playmakers in the back seven have been active all year.
Grant has amassed 124 tackles, with 14 for loss, and Nick Garcia also has 124 stops. Not far behind them are Larry Cooper (118 tackles, 5 TFL), Blackshire (105 tackles, 8 TFL) and Donnell (90 tackles).
The secondary does not have a lot of interceptions, but Donnell, B.J. Westmoreland, Kaemen Skinner and Evan Williams each have six pass breakups.
The X-factor could be special teams and Horn has plenty of ways to make an impact. Richard Garcia has been steady in all facets, with 37 of his 70 kickoffs going for touch backs, he is averaging 37.0 yards per punt and he is 44-of-45 on extra points and 11-of-15 on field goals.
Emory is averaging 24.7 yards per punt return and Ben Wyatt is also dangerous on kickoffs.
The winner of this game will take on either Longview (12-0) or Austin Vandegrift (12-0) in the Region II championship game.