Horn put together one of the most unique seasons in recent memory a year ago.
Facing one of the toughest schedules in Texas, the Jaguars found themselves starting at a 0-7 record in late October.
The team took a step back to regroup during its bye and returned to the field with renewed energy. Horn won its final three games of the 11-6A season to earn a playoff berth and they were not finished.
The Jaguars knocked off Temple (45-38) and Wylie (49-31) to extend their winning streak to five before falling in the regional semifinals with a 35-16 loss to Spring Westfield.
Last week, Horn concluded its first round of offseason workouts under new head coach Chris Hudler, who was promoted from defensive coordinator after the retirement of Mike Overton, who steps away as the all-time leader in victories in Mesquite ISD after compiling a 102-60 record in 13 seasons at West Mesquite and Horn.
Hudler provides plenty of familiarity with MISD. He grew in the school district and was a member of the 2001 Mesquite state championship team. Hudler returned to MISD as an assistant at Horn in 2013, moving up to defensive coordinator and now head coach.
“My goal is to be an elite program in Texas and elite teams win in December,” Hudler said. “It is not just about making the playoffs, we’re not going to be satisfied with that, we want to make a run to the quarterfinals, semifinals, state championship.
“That is how you become elite. I’m a firm believer in what has worked to get to this point and I want to add to it and take it to the next level.”
The Jaguars return 11 starters from last season’s squad, including five on the offensive side of the ball.
Horn has a big hole to fill at quarterback with the graduation of Jermaine Givens, who signed with Lamar after rewriting the program record book.
Senior Davazea Gabriel got some experience running the offense and flashed his ability to pick up yards on the ground (51-203, 3 TDs) and transfer Braylon Monroe has also gotten a look at both quarterback and wide receiver.
The Jaguars return one of the most dynamic playmakers in the area in senior N’Kowsi Emory. The versatile Emory had 96 carries for 620 yards and six touchdowns, caught 13 passes for 321 yards and a pair of scores and was also one of the most electric returners in the region.
Horn features experience at other skill positions, as well. Senior Cameron Jackson (26-429, 3 TDs) and senior Donovan Payne (14-178, TD) were key targets on the outside and senior Ben Wyatt (35-238, 3 TDs rushing, 7-64 receiving) can play a role in the rushing and passing games.
The offensive line is expected to be a strength, anchored by senior center Daimonte Williams, who led the team in pancakes and was a first-team all-district honoree.
Defensively, the Jaguars will be strong in the middle. Senior Nick Garcia was voted as the 11-6A defensive newcomer of the year after registering 132 tackles and three sacks, while Quavon Grant was named to the first team as he had 128 tackles, 13 for loss, with seven quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles.
That unit will be further bolstered by sophomore Marquis Edwards, who made an impact as a freshman and wills step into a starting role at outside linebacker.
Senior Matthew Robles (54 tackles) returns to anchor the defensive line and John Burris (35 tackles) is among the notables with experience in the secondary.
There is always a transition phase when a new head coach takes over, but Hudler and the staff provide plenty of stability and they have no reason to believe they will extend their streak of 11 consecutive playoff appearances.