In Forsyth County, the football teams are filled to the brim. Freshman, Junior Varsity and Varsity squads all have 60 or more players awaiting their number to be called. For one high school in the county, 60 players on the roster would be a dream.
Horizon Christian Academy is sometimes the forgotten Forsyth school. They play in the GICAA. They don’t have well-known rivals. They don’t have the crowds. They don’t have the big rosters.
The Warriors find relevance in success. A young football program that can sometimes be overshadowed by the big schools needs state playoff wins to keep their name in people’s minds. In 2016, Horizon looked at the goal of a state championship as a realistic possibility.
They were led by two seniors, quarterback Jacob Grinstead and defensive back Daniel Durnwald. The season started off well, winning the first two games, but the back-to-back losses that followed foreshadowed their .500 record at the end of the regular season.
Their record was good enough to lift them into the playoffs, where they faced off against The King’s Academy, a rematch of a regular season overtime victory for the Warriors. It was just as close as the first game, one score separating the two teams, but this time Horizon found themselves on the losing end.
“I think we underachieved as a team,” head coach Charles Wiggins said. “It wasn’t what I expected, but we came with a .500 record going into the playoffs, and you can’t ask for more than that.”
This season promises an entirely new challenge for Wiggins and Horizon. They are bringing back only about four starters on each side of the ball, but with their eyes still set on a state championship, it is vitally important for the limited roster to maximize every guy on the field.
“Most of them [the players] play two ways, but I expect everybody that’s out there on the field to be excellent in everything they do,” Wiggins said. “The expectation for these kids is excellence and nothing but excellence, because that’s what we have to be.”
Last season was a roller coaster on offense, though at its best moments Horizon was led by Grinstead and running back John Michael Booth.
In at quarterback is junior Jake McIntyre. McIntyre has played the backup role behind Grinstead for his first two seasons, but he feels confident he can step in and lead the offense.
“I have to step in and be a great leader for our team,” McIntyre said. “I absolutely believe I can take leadership of the team and keep us in big games.”
Helping him will be wide receiver Alex Dahlberg. Dahlberg will be used at multiple positions on the offense where they hope to get his playmaking abilities into the open field.
Defensively, the Warriors were unimpressive last season. They let up an average of 22.6 points per game, including allowing at least 30 points eight times. The biggest loss on the defensive side is Durnwald, who was a dynamic defender who could play almost anywhere they lined him up. He was featured in the secondary and on the defensive line where he led the team in tackles.
Stepping up to replace him looks to be Dahlberg who will roam in the secondary, but replacing a guy like Durnwald isn’t easy.
"A guy like D-Bo is hard to replace,” Dahlberg said. “We’re all going to have to step up, including me.”
At linebacker, Jake Walker looks to increase his productivity in order to make Horizon’s defense ready for a state playoff run.
At Horizon: 16-28, fifth season.
Overall: 61-72-1, 13th season.
All games 7:30 p.m. unless noted
Aug. 18 vs. Lanier Christian, 5:30
Aug. 25 at Life Christian
Sept. 1 at Community Christian
Sept. 8 at Creekside Christian
Sept. 15 vs. Horizon
Sept. 22 vs. Covenant Academy, 5:30
Sept. 29 at Griffin Christian
Oct. 14 vs. Dawson Christian, 3
Oct. 20 at Johnson Ferry, 7
Oct. 28 vs. King's Academy, 3