Record-Setting Receiver: North’s Horn is The Republic Football Player of the Year

Cooper Horn was well on his way to becoming one of the state’s top basketball players when he dove head-first into a new challenge.

Former Columbus North football coach Tim Bless was looking for talented athletes to add to his roster, and Horn fit the bill. At 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds with speed, leaping ability and a father who played football at Indiana University, he was a natural wide receiver.

After a solid junior year, Horn’s game took off this season. He ranked among the state’s leading receivers and is this year’s the Republic Football Player of the Year.

“Coach Bless just kept pushing at me, and I also had a lot of friends on the (football) team that also played basketball that were pushing me,” Horn said. “Ever since freshman year, they were trying to get me to play, and I just finally gave in junior year, and I don’t regret deciding to come out and play.”

The Bull Dogs don’t regret having Horn either, especially Logan Haston, who took over as head coach this season.

“I’m really impressed with the season Cooper had,” Haston said. “Going into the year, we knew he was going to have a good year, but I don’t think anybody realized what he was going to do. He just had a phenomenal season. It was very evident when we went into game plans that their game plan was to stop him. He faced every team’s best corner or safety. Even when he wasn’t getting the ball, he was able to open up for our other skill players to get the ball. Even when he wasn’t getting the ball, he was a strong presence for us.”

That certainly was the case in the closing seconds of North’s homecoming game against Terre Haute North. After the Patriots had rallied to tie the game with a late touchdown, the Bull Dogs drove into Terre Haute North territory. With Horn double-covered, quarterback Zac Horn found Damon Edwards in the end zone for a touchdown with less than a second remaining.

“I think Cooper’s leadership emerged as the season progressed,” Haston said. “I’m not sure early on he felt comfortable in that role, being only his second year of football. As the year went on, you could tell, guys were looking to him to lead the charge for us for the entire team.”

Cooper Horn credited much of his development as a receiver to working with assistant coach and former Indiana State receiver D’Andre Scruggs.

“Last year, toward the end of the season, I started learning more things, just the simple little things because when you’re coming into a totally new sport, it’s kind of different,” Horn said. “This year, I had a receiver coach, D’Andre Scruggs, who played Division I football, so he was able to teach me more skills about releases and how to catch the ball in traffic and just really made me the player I was this year.”

Going into this weekend’s state finals, Horn ranked second in the state and first among players above the Class 3A level with 1,471 receiving yards. He also set school records with 71 receptions and 20 touchdowns.

“This year was definitely one that I will remember forever,” Horn said. “It wasn’t really all about stats. It was about just the family feeling we had around our team. Being a senior and being around all my fellow seniors, we had a really good culture around the team. Everybody really got along together, and it just made it a fun year and made it easy for me to go out there and perform.”

One of those seniors Horn had a chance to play alongside this year was his cousin Zac. Zac Horn had a record-setting season in his first year as the Bull Dogs’ starting quarterback.

“It was something else,” Cooper Horn said. “I never thought coming in as a freshman, I’d be going out there Friday nights, putting up the numbers I put up. But the career I had was made through my teammates. This year, I had Zac Horn, my cousin, at quarterback, which was just awesome. We’ve been dreaming about that since we were little kids. Then, Tyler Blythe at running back and Damon Edwards, we’ve all been buddies since seventh grade, since we started playing sports. Just playing with those guys really made my career special, and now, we’re all playing basketball, which is awesome.”

Cooper has an offer to play football at Butler. He has talked with DePauw and Hanover about playing both sports.

“It’s kind of up in the air,” he said. “I have had some smaller Division III schools that have reached out to me and are interested in me playing both. My dad (Will Horn) played football in college, and it was a grind just to play one sport. With football and basketball being back-to-back seasons, I think it would be hard. I’m kind of undecided on what I want to do yet. I’m just going to see how this basketball season goes and go from there.”

He has some lofty goals for his final high school basketball season.

“I’m hoping we can get a sectional championship,” he said. “We came up just short last year, lost in double-overtime, and we felt like we just gave that game away, missing free throws. That one just hurts, and as a senior, we have guys I’ve played with since fifth grade, so I think it’s just going to be really fun, and to win a sectional would be awesome. That’s our goal right now, and anything further than that would be really awesome.”

The Republic All-Area Football team:

Offense

QB—Zac Horn, Columbus North: The senior completed 193 of 299 passes for 2,484 yards and 26 touchdowns.

RB—Tyler Blythe, Columbus North: The senior carried 176 times for 1,010 yards and 10 TDs and caught 46 passes for 341 yards and four TDs and threw for two TDs.

RB—Corbin Johnson, South Decatur: The sophomore carried 208 times for 1,736 yards and 21 TDs.

WR—Cooper Horn, Columbus North: The senior caught 71 passes for 1,471 yards and 20 TDs.

WR—Damon Edwards, Columbus North: The senior caught 38 passes for 506 yards and five TDs, threw for two TDs and had 39 tackles on defense.

TE—Jared Brooks, Columbus East: The sophomore caught 15 passes for 234 yards and two TDs.

OL—Kok Kao Yee, Columbus North: The senior led an offensive line that paved the way for 248 rushing and 137 passing yards per game.

OL—Willy Davis, Columbus North: The senior helped pave the way for 248 rushing and 137 passing yards per game.

OL—Cody Thurnall, Columbus North: The senior helped pave the way for 248 rushing and 137 passing yards per game.

OL—Jacob Guse, Columbus East: The senior led an offensive line that paved the way for 147 yards rushing and 91 yards passing per game.

OL—Conrad Eggers, Columbus East, The senior helped pave the way for 147 yards rushing and 91 yards passing per game.

Defense

DL—Savion Miles, Columbus North: The senior had 91 tackles, including 7 for losses and 1 1/2 sacks.

DL—Leon Brown, Columbus North: The senior had 31 tackles, including four for losses, and caught four passes for 43 yards.

DL—Jamall Starks, Columbus East: The senior had 42 tackles, including five for losses and one sack.

DL—Rhett Martin, South Decatur: The senior had 90 tackles, including 13 1/2 for losses and 6 1/2 sacks, and had 83 carries for 610 yards and seven TDs.

LB—Chase Harrison, Columbus East: The senior recorded 96 tackles.

LB—Caaden Gault, Columbus East: The junior had 96 tackles, including nine for losses.

LB—Ian Calvert, Columbus North: The senior had 91 tackles, including 6 for losses and 3 1/2 sacks.

LB—Osian Guest, Columbus North: The senior had 80 tackles and converted 6 of 8 field goals and 22 of 30 extra points.

DB—Devon Tekulve, Columbus East: The senior recorded 64 tackles and five interceptions.

DB—Nate Anderson, Columbus East: The junior recorded 48 tackles.

DB—Caleb Dewey, Edinburgh: The senior had 41 tackles and four interceptions and caught 22 passes for 405 yards and five TDs.

Specialists

K—Nathaniel Hedrick, Columbus East: The senior converted 6 of 6 field goals and 26 or 27 extra points.

P—Austin Wells, Jennings County: The senior averaged 36.4 yards on 23 points, putting four inside the 20, and converted 1 of 1 field goals and 20 of 24 extra points.

Honorable mention:

Brown County: Kody Shugars, Ben Wagler, Andy Weddle. Columbus East: Tommy Anderson, Brennan Cowan, Tristan Davis, Ethan Duncan, Javeon Smith, Chase Zapfe. Columbus North: Keller DeSpain, Garrett Long, Max Mormino, Jose Ramirez. Edinburgh: Jackson Hartwell, Caleb Murphy, Keegan Smith, Jarrett Turner. Jennings County: Branden Braun, Sam Burkman, Parker Elmore, Blaine Ison. South Decatur: JP Scudder.