BY JEFF FALK
Sam Bowie, Becky Hower, Carla Munnion, Jared Odrick, Kerry Collins, Travis Ludwig. That’s some pretty heady company.
So what does Evan Horn and those cats have in common? Few freshmen in the history of Lebanon County sports have had as much impact on the varsity level as Horn has.
Horn, a 14-year-old ninth-grader, is a multi-talented, multi-sport athlete for Cedar Crest’s Falcons. Not only do the things he does on the court and gridiron already amaze, H9rn has captured the imagination of local on-lookers, causing them to wander exactly to what level he can elevate his game.
In romantic terms, Horn is a natural. Everything he does, he seemingly does well – and with ease. At 6-0 and 180 pounds, Horn is big, strong, fast, quick, agile and versatile.
But what really impresses is how the bright Horn plays the games he plays – with a calmness, headiness and confidence, all of which do not reflect his grade.
“It’s something other freshmen haven’t gotten the opportunity to do,” said Horn. “But I think playing at a higher level will help me in the future. It’s an honor. People get to see the hard work you put in. Everybody thinks I’m older than I am, like a junior or a senior. I’ll have people come up to me and ask, ‘What college do you go to?’
“A lot of my teammates have come up to me and said, “I can’t wait until you’re a senior, and I’ll come see you play,'” Horn continued. “But that’s so far away. My expectations aren’t necessarily to be able to kick everybody’s butt. I think if I just keep working hard, I should be OK.”
At a Class AAAA high school hungry for success in the high profile sports of football and basketball, some look at Horn as some sort of savior. Though Horn won’t single-handedly turn those Falcon programs around, given his athletic talent, he wouldn’t require all that much help.
“I definitely do have a chance to help do that,” said Horn. “There’s a lot of ninth-graders playing football. They all look up to me and I know they do. Our JV basketball team this year lost four games, all by five points or less. When I’m a junior, look out for our basketball team. Remember this – we’re going to be good. I know I can’t do it myself. But I’m always on everyone to get into the weight room. But it’s not going to be crappy Cedar Crest any more.
“There’s definitely pressure,” added Horn. “Having the freshmen year I’ve had, everybody expects us to over power everyone when I’m a junior and a senior. But if I keep doing what I’m doing and let my teammates do their things, we’ll be fine.”
The transformation of Cedar Crest basketball may have already begun. With Horn and his teammates performing at a very high level, the Falcons qualified for the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs for the first time in 37 years this winter and made a rare appearance in the District Three Class AAAA postseason.
For his part, Horn experienced very few difficulties successfully competing against future Division One athletes.
In football during the fall, Horn was a standout on a Falcon squad that suffered through yet another disappointing year. But with his speed, vision and toughness, football seems to be Horn’s thing. What is tough to envision is a Cedar Crest football team with Horn, struggling as much as it has over the past few seasons.
“In football, I felt like we under-achieved,” said Horn. “We had a good team and fell apart. We had a good season, but under-achieved like we did at the beginning of the basketball season. It was a learning block for me. I did OK, but I could’ve done better. But I still did good enough to consider it a success.
“Basketball was a lot of fun this year for me, especially when we had that run,” continued Horn. “We were winning and got some media attention. We got fans out and then it became more fun. I love basketball. At the beginning of the year, I was nervous, to be honest. I put all the work in and my teammates really accepted me. My role was to shut down the other team’s best player.”
It may be that Horn has gone through his growth spurt earlier than his classmates. But even if his fellow freshmen catch up to him physically, the lessons he has learned this year will serve him well, both mentally and emotionally, during future seasons. And who’s to say Horn won’t experience another spurt of physical maturity?
“Things could’ve definitely been better, but I’m pleased with how they’ve gone,” said Horn, who was somewhat of an urban legend during his formative midget years. “My freshman year was definitely what I expected it to be. In open gyms for basketball, I got a chance to play with the older kids. And as I went on, I learned I could play with the better guys. I also realized I had to get bigger if I wanted to do the things I want to do in football.
“In basketball, I need to improve my shooting,” Horn continued. “It’s not where I want it to be. I had like four or five 3s. That’s not getting it done. I feel like my defense is fine, but offensively, I need to be quicker and shoot better. Some people say I should be more selfish. I understand that but I don’t know if I agree with it.
“There’s always things you can improve on. In football, I need to get better on the defensive side of the ball, especially with my tackling. I missed a lot of tackles, for a safety. If a safety misses a tackle, it’s a touchdown. And that really hurts your team.”
Horn has a difficult time remembering a time in his life that didn’t include athletics. But is Horn good at sports because he has played them all of his life, or has he played them all of his life because he’s good at them?
“Sports is my life,” said Horn. “At school, my nickname is ‘Sports’. They don’t call me Evan. They say I’m good at everything, so they call me ‘Sports.’ I probably wouldn’t have as many friends if I didn’t play sports. If I didn’t play sports, I wouldn’t be as good of a person as I am. Without sports, I don’t know if I could do it.
“I love winning. I hate losing,” Horn added. “When we’re playing other teams, I look for cockiness. That’s when I really want to do good. There are people who do a lot of talking. I’m like, ‘Just play.’ It’s in my gut. I couldn’t do anything without it. It’s sort of like in my brains.”
Horn is also running track this spring for the Falcons. And there are those who say his best sport is baseball. So which is his favorite?
“I’d have to say football,” said Horn. “Basketball is coming up there. I’m starting to like it more. But if I had to choose, I’d go football over basketball.”
But just because football is his favorite, doesn’t mean the versatile Horn is ready to focus on it solely.
“That’ll never happen,” said Horn. “People are always asking me that. Coach War (football’s Tom Waranavage) is big on playing all sports because it helps everything. You only get one chance to play high school sports.
“I definitely want to play sports in college,” continued Horn. “It’s a long way off, but I definitely have thought about it. At this point, I’d like to play football in college.”
Horn raised some eyebrows locally when he decided to compete in track over baseball. Ironically those are two of the sports that Cedar Crest enjoys the most success.
“Last year, I did baseball too. But now, baseball is out of the picture,” said Horn. “To be honest, I felt like track would help me stay in shape and make me faster. But my form is terrible. I lost interest in baseball. I just wasn’t getting the exercise.
“It was something I thought about for a long time because I played baseball my whole life,” Horn continued. “I used to really like it. I definitely wasn’t going to do neither. I was going to do one or the other. Yeah it’s different not having my baseball bag in the garage or not swinging a bat. But it’s a change. There will probably be a time when, yeah I’ll sort of miss it.”
For the Cedar Crest thinclads, Horn will throw the javelin, compete in the jumps, sprint the 100-meter dash and participate in relay teams.
“Track is definitely something I want to be good at,” said Horn, “but I want to get faster for football and basketball. And I want to help the team win.”
A good indication of an athlete’s athletic intentions is how he or she spends time over the summer months. Horn expects to play AAU basketball with many of his Falcon teammates, while increasing his strength in the weight room.
“I’m the most competitive person you’ll ever meet,” said Horn. “I absolutely hate to lose. You can ask my family. When I come home after a loss, I won’t talk to anyone. I just sleep. I always look at what I could’ve done better. All those things go through my mind, all those little things.”
There are no guarantees for Horn’s future. But it should be interesting, to say the least, to see how it all plays out.