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BY JEFF FALK

EASTON – Evan Horn is on a football journey that has morphed into an odyssey. He can’t exactly pinpoint where it began, neither is he sure when or how it will end.

All he knows is that’s he’s had some great experiences along the way, he’s made a lot of great decisions and that he can’t imagine a life without the game.

On a warm Saturday afternoon, Horn’s odyssey brought him to Lafayette College as a senior/grad student safety on the University of New Hampshire football team. As has become his custom, the former Cedar Crest standout showed the way for a defense that the Wildcats leaned on for a 19-13 road triumph.

From his safety spot, Horn crowded the box, provided pass coverage all over the field and served as the University of New Hampshire’s last line of defense. When you’re as talented and versatile as Horn is, you can make it all look so easy.

“It’s in the back of my mind for sure,” said Horn, of the pending end to his UNH career. “I’m just glad I got the opportunity to come out here and play the game. I’ve just got to get ready every week and know that some of those other things will take care of themselves.”

After Lafayette returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a 7-0 lead, Horn and the Wildcats’ defense surrendered just two field goals the rest of the way, and 233 yards of total offense, 41 of which came on the ground.

New Hampshire took the lead for good 4:17 into the second half when quarterback Bret Edwards hit Brian Espanet with a 14-yard scoring strike that made the score 12-7.

“We could’ve played a little better,” said Horn. “We had a slow start with the kickoff return. But a win’s a win.

“We played well defensively,” added Horn. “We were looking forward to this. We missed a couple of tackles. But it ended up being pretty good.”

“Evan’s probably as good a safety as we’ve ever had here at UNH,” said New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell. “He’s great around the football. He has great intuitions. He’s got a knack for making plays and I think that comes from playing multiple sports. Of all the things we’ve asked Evan to do here, flexibility comes to mind.”

On this day, the 6-0, 220-pound Horn played every defensive snap, contributed four solo tackles and returned a pair of punts. This year, Horn now has 14 total tackles, 12 of which are of the solo variety and two interceptions.

Saturday was Horn’s 24th consecutive start and his 31st overall as a Wildcat.

“I could’ve played a little better,” said Horn. “I missed a couple of tackles myself. But you can’t complain about giving up six points. I just always think there’s room for improvement. But it turned out alright for us.”

“What he does that not all people can do is process things extremely quickly,” McDonnell said. “When you do that the anticipation becomes much easier. He’s got that ‘it’. But I think the biggest thing I see from him is that he’s able to play within himself.”

With the road triumph, No. 23 New Hampshire improved to 3-0 on the season. During Horn’s four-plus years at UNH, the Wildcats have made winning a habit.

Before losing 2020 to COVID-19, New Hampshire went 6-5 in Horn’s junior season of 2019, 4-7 in 2018 when he was a sophomore and 9-5 in his freshman season of 2017.

“We can’t complain about 3-0,” said Horn. “At this point, things are going really well. But we still have to put four quarters together.”

“He’s probably the best leader on our football team,” said McDonnell, of Horn. “He leads the way I expect a New Hampshire man to lead. He’s a beacon in a port. He’s got natural leadership qualities. Our players look to him.

“He’s grown by knowing how to do it,” continued McDonnell. “It’s a hard thing to learn. He watched people in front of him. He saw what guys in front of him were doing right and he saw what guys in front of him were doing wrong. Guys just respect him.”

Horn leads in a few different ways – through words, by example and with experience. Of all the current Wildcats, Horn also leads New Hampshire in career tackles, career interceptions, career sacks and put return yardage.

“I’ve been here awhile,” said Horn. “I have a lot of experience on the field and in the locker room. Defensively, it starts with me. It’s a combination of both (leading by words and example). Even when I was at Cedar Crest, I always felt that way. Obviously, experience helps. But it’s just kind of evolved that way.

“For me, that (his presence and feel for the game) just came from playing the game at a young age, with my brothers in the backyard,” added Horn. “That’s where I got it, the ability to make decisions on the run.”

“What he does that not all people can do is process things extremely quickly,” McDonnell said. “When you do that the anticipation becomes much easier. He’s got that ‘it’. But I think the biggest thing I see from him is that he’s able to play within himself.”

“He plays hard,” McDonnell added. “He does all the little things to improve. He’s a special kid. He’s a hard worker. He’s going to be missed around here, just because of the way he handles himself.”

Horn and the Wildcats have eight games remaining on their regular season schedule – including a September 25th date at Pittsburgh next Saturday- and are certainly putting themselves in a position to extend their season. Horn has said on the record that he’d like to continue playing football beyond 2021, on the next level.

To do that, he will need to improve his one-on-one coverage skills. And while it may seem a long shot for him to play professionally, Horn is not a person to be bet against.

“I’m definitely working on it,” said Horn of the his coverage skills. “I always think there’s room to improve. It’s the biggest jump I can make as a player. Hopefully it’ll show up on tape.

“Obviously it’s taken a lot to get to this point,” continued Horn. “But I don’t regret anything. I was able to come here and make a name for myself. It’s worked out, the decision I made.”

“We’ve talked about this, but the most important thing he has to improve is his coverage skills,” said McDonnell. “This game has evolved into spread the field and cover people man-to-man. It’s about what you do in space. His coverage skills are what needs to improve.”

“The thing about Evan Horn is that all his attributes come from his mom and dad,” said McDonnell. “In this day and age, it’s so important to be grounded. He knows where he is and he has always played like he belongs there.

“He plays hard,” McDonnell added. “He does all the little things to improve. He’s a special kid. He’s a hard worker. He’s going to be missed around here, just because of the way he handles himself.”

To purchase images in this article please email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

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