Twin brothers Nic and Sam Horner have never seen tape of their dad, Scott, when he was a standout quarterback at Carlyle High School nearly 30 years ago.
But the second-year starters at Columbia High School have heard plenty about how their old man led the Indians to the Class 2A state football championship in 1988.
“He doesn’t talk a lot about when he played at Carlyle. When I asked him, he said he played quarterback ... and that they won the state title,” Nic Horner said. “I’d like to be able to follow in his footsteps and maybe win a state title here at Columbia.”
Should that wish become reality, it will be their dad calling the plays.
In his 18th season as Columbia’s head football coach, Scott Horner watched from the sideline as his sons played key roles in the Eagles’ 36-35, come-from-behind win opening night at Mascoutah last week.
Nic, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound quarterback, was 6 of 14 for 59 yards passing, and his 34-yard strike to Blake Warner got the Eagles on the board in the first quarter.
Sam, a 5-11, 190-pound wide receiver, caught three of his brother’s passes for 18 yards, then kicked the winning extra point following a 90-yard kickoff return by Londyn Little with a little more than a minute left.
“It was a little nerve-wracking, but in the end, we found a way to get the job done,” Sam Horner said following practice Tuesday. “It all turned out good.
“Obviously we lost Jordan (Holmes) from last year, and that was a huge loss. But I think we’ve grown from that. Last year we struggled with our culture a little bit, and this year we’ve been able to overcome. To be able to come back and win at Mascoutah last week, that was a huge win for us.”
The win also made for a more pleasant week around the Horner home as the Eagles prepare for their Monroe County showdown with Waterloo on Friday.
But football is always the hot topic around the home of Scott and Beth Horner anyway. The couple will celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary in December and, along with the twins, have a 10-year-old daughter, Ella, who is involved in cheerleading and tumbling.
Both Sam and Nic are three-sport athletes at Columbia, adding basketball and baseball to their athletic pursuits. Their love of sports came from their dad, who was one of the great athletes in Carlyle High School history.
Also a three-sport athlete, Scott Horner was the starting quarterback on the Indians team that defeated Aledo 21-13 in the Class 2A state title game in 1988. Four months later, he was the starting point guard on the Indians basketball team that defeated Rock Island Alleman 65-56 to win the Class A state basketball title. That Carlyle team was led by all-state center Tom Michael, who scored 121 points in the four-game state tournament.
“That was a long time ago. It’s hard to remember,” Scott Horner said, laughing. “There were a lot of good times. To be able to get to the highest point (twice) with a bunch of great guys that I played with, certainly it’s special.
“It’s fun to look back at those things we accomplished from time to time, but it’s not my focus.”
As a competitor, Scott Horner is always looking ahead at the next hill to climb. At the moment, that’s getting the Eagles to the playoffs for the eighth season in a row.
With a 124-55 coaching record overall, he has had just one losing season.
These three seasons at Columbia have offered the added challenges of finding balance between being a coach and being a dad.
“To be honest about it, I do whatever I can to coach my sons like I do all of the kids on this football team. Am I tougher and do I expect more from them? I don’t think I do. They may feel differently,” Scott Horner said. “I think sometimes I have to guard against being harder on them than the other guys, so they’re not singled out because of who they are. I try. I know I’m not perfect, but I try to coach them like I do the rest of the guys.”
Sam Horner began his football career as a running back, quarterback and center, before growing four inches prior to his freshman year and moving to wide receiver. He says he likes playing for his dad and appreciates his dad’s effort to be fair to all players, no matter their last name.
““There is a little pressure being his son. I enjoy it because I’ve been around it for so long, and I know how my dad runs things,” Sam said. “If you are going to be a leader on the field, then you have to hold yourself accountable. It’s a lot pressure, but I enjoy it because it motivates me. I don’t think dad is that much tougher on Nic and myself ... I think he holds everyone pretty accountable.”
Scott Horner says he tries to keep what happens on the field away from home. He admits that mom Beth has to play mediator on those rare occasions when the football talk seems best suited for between the lines.
“It’s all good though,” Horner said. “From a positive perspective, certainly, we take it home and watch film and talk about certain situations, certain plays, things we could have done better and/or things we need to do in the upcoming week. I enjoy coaching my sons.
“Anytime you can spend time with your kids doing something we all like, as a father, that is very enjoyable. And being on the front line with them, obviously it’s very rewarding. It’s rewarding to me anytime kids succeed.”
Nic Horner may feel even more pressure than his brother, since he plays the same position his father did. But as a quarterback, he says, having the coach at home offers more upside than downside.
“I see him every night at home, and he tells me things that I need to work on, and I can talk to him about things I think we can install that will work for us. I think he’s tougher on me,” Nic said. “Him being a quarterback has really helped me. He is able to tell me how to do things.
“I’m a lot like my dad in that I’m very competitive, and I don’t like to lose in anything. It makes me angry.”