THORNTON - The Horizon football season once again ended with a bitter taste in the team’s mouth.
The Hawks had ample chances to win their second-round Class 5A state playoff game with fifth-seeded Arapahoe on Friday, but once again shot themselves in the foot at inopportune moments.
No. 21 Horizon turned the ball over four times and had two scoring plays called back due to penalties, before falling to the Warriors 17-14 at Five Star Stadium.
The Hawks had a touchdown pass from Stackhouse to Jordan Iacovetta called back in the second quarter and then in the fourth quarter, a 78-yard touchdown pass from Stackhouse to Dustin Rivas was negated due to a penalty, which would have given Horizon the lead with less than five minutes left in the contest.
“Missed opportunities, two years in a row,” Horizon coach Frank Ybarra said.
The Hawks lost in similar fashion to Lakewood during last year’s state playoffs, when they turned the ball over four times.
Both squads scored on their opening drives. Arapahoe got on board with a field goal by J.D. Hall, but Horizon answered after Dante Chand’s 56-yard run on the opening drive set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Stackhouse.
After that the Hawks struggled against the Warriors’ unpredictable defense, forcing Horizon to twice go three-and-out and stalling a drive with an interception in the second quarter.
“You don’t know where they are coming from,” Ybarra said. “They bring eight, nine guys, and from every angle and every gap.”
Arapahoe capitalized on Horizon’s struggles and turned to Jose Cancanon to lead the way. Cancanon fought his way into the end zone from 23 yards out to give the Warriors a 10-7 lead with over three minutes left in the half. Two minutes later the junior running back scored again pounding his way into the end zone from two yards.
Cancanon had 115 yards on 12 carries at the half to help the Warriors lead 17-7; he finished the game with 136 yards.
The Hawks did stage a rally in the fourth quarter, Stackhouse hooked up with Greg Gonzales for a 43-yard touchdown to cut the Warriors lead to three. However, Horizon turned the ball over on downs the next two possessions and Stackhouse’s pass was intercepted on the final drive.
“Our D has been pretty good all year. It’s been our safety blanket,” Arapahoe coach Mike Campbell said. “A win is a win when you are in the playoffs and I am very proud of our guys.”
Dante Chand had 121 yards rushing and finished the season with 813 yards to lead the Hawks.
Stackhouse threw for 116 yards, a touchdown and two picks. He had 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns for the season, while Rivas had 806 yards receiving and 10 touchdown catches to lead Horizon.
Defensively, Gunnar Campbell had two sacks in the contest and finished the season with 11.
Horizon will graduate 16 seniors, including Stackhouse, Rivas, Dante Chand and captains Easton Robbins, Chad David and Steven Sumey.
“I’m losing some special players,” Ybarra said. “Great kids, I’m going to miss them and it stinks for them.”
The Hawks finished the season 7-4 overall, with three of their losses being by less than seven points.
Up next for Arapahoe (10-1) is No. 4 Valor Christian Eagles, who have plowed their way through the first two rounds. They beat Legacy 52-6 in the first round and then topped Regis Jesuit 44-3 last week.