Hora's a ball hawk
Linebacker Mitchell Hora’s fumble recovery seemed to set the tone for Washington’s defense in Wednesday’s first-round playoff game against No. 10 Norwalk.
Just two plays into the contest, Hora fell on a loose football. And just like that, the Demon defense had its first stop of the night.
“It was big,” Washington head coach Randy Schrader said of Hora’s fumble recovery. “When we match their physical size with intensity and then our kid makes a great play for us defensively and recovers a fumble, the air just started going out of the balloon for the people on the other sideline. Those are always big, especially turnovers early. It really gets people out of their rhythm.”
Norwalk’s offense struggled to find its rhythm the rest of the night, and Washington’s defense limited the Warriors to just 143 yards in a 28-14 win.
The fumble recovery was the fourth of the season for Hora, a 5-foot-7, 155-pound senior. He’s also intercepted a pass this season.
“I think that’s with experience,” Hora said. “I’ve been playing football since youth flag football. I’ve been a linebacker my whole life. I really pride myself on that position. You just have to watch where the ball is and know where it’s at and know where it’s going to be. You just have to be aware of the ball at all times.”
Hora is in his second season as one of the Demons’ starting outside linebackers. He ranked third on the team last year with 59 tackles, and he’s again one of the team’s leading tacklers this season, as his 89 stops rank third on the squad.
“He’s a good tackler,” Schrader said of Hora. “That goes back to his wrestling background. He knows how to use his hips and knows how to use his hands. He’s not very big, but he’s really physical.”
That goes for most of Washington’s defense. The Demons make up for their lack of physical size with their tenacity.
“That’s one thing we’re really priding ourselves on this year, and it’s going to be a big factor the rest of the year,” Hora said of the team’s physical nature. “With Washington football we have that physicality. A lot of other places don’t have that. They don’t play people as physical as us.”
As a two-year starter, Hora is a leader for a fierce Washington defense that allows just 175 yards and 11 points per game.
“He’s done a great job for us in terms of trying to be a vocal leader at times when we need somebody to step up and be vocal,” Schrader said.
Hora, the son of Brian and Theresa Hora, also has some experience when it comes to the postseason. He qualified for the state wrestling tournament at 132 pounds this past winter.
“He’s a state qualifier, so he’s been in the show,” Schrader said. “This is really nothing new to him in terms of getting into the tournament. That experience, you just can’t say enough about that experience of going to Wells Fargo Arena and wrestling in front of those crowds. It carries over.”
It carried over into Wednesday’s playoff game at Case Field. After the Demons stuffed Norwalk running back Keaton Klocko for a five-yard loss on the first play of Wednesday’s game, a fumble rolled right to Hora on the second play.
“The ball squirted out right in front of me,” he said. “I was coming in on it, but it ended up clear out to my side with no one around it. It was easy to jump on it. I’m not exactly sure who pulled it out, but it was perfect right to me. I was just in the right spot at the right time. I’ve been on a string of turnovers, so hopefully that will continue.”