From the first time the Wayne Trace coaching staff got look at his potential in 2008 through the eight games of the 2011 season, Wayne Trace Raider running back Dylan Horner has given the game of football everything he possibly could.
And when the senior running back ran for 97 yards in a week 7 game against Tinora, he solidified his place as one of the most prolific running backs in Raiders' history, as he passed standout Lance Sinn to become the program's all-time leading rusher.
"It was a goal of mine ever since sophomore year, ever since coach told me I reminded him so much of Lance," said Horner, who is also a linebacker turned defensive end. "It just blows my mind that I would be able to break his record because I looked up to him since I was younger and he's like my running back role model."
Sinn's record was 2,653 and since the game against the Rams, Horner has added to the record, totaling 2,770 yards with two games still to play. He also holds the career records for rushing attempts (483) and is third in rushing touchdowns with 25, nine behind Sinn.
With two games to go in the 2011 campaign and his Raider career, Horner is humble about what he has accomplished, and admits he could not have done it by himself.
"I've really been privileged to have a really nice line throughout my three years," said Horner. "I had Jesse Oliver, Trevor Speiser and Ethan Webster my sophomore year, that was a really good boost for me and then it went to Pete Sinn and Gary Klopfenstein, so it's been really nice having really big guys up their blocking for me."
In a season that began with high hopes such as a shot at the league title and a long playoff run but went off track in large part due to injuries. Reaching the record and now building on it has served as a boost in motivation for everyone from week to week.
"It gave us something to shoot for," remarked head coach Bill Speller, whose team started out 3-1 and currently stands at 4-4. "We had injury losses right at a key time in our schedule with Edgerton, Hicksville and Tinora and when we were suffering through these injuries and suffering through the losses, it gave us something to still shoot for. The guys were still talking about it, getting Dylan the record. The linemen take a lot of pride in blocking for him and getting him that record. They've taken a lot of ownership in that record as much as he has."
With Horner, Speller knows what he will get day in and day out and was quick to point out the biggest thing that his senior back brings every time he hits the field ...
"He's hard-nosed, plain and simple," said Speller. "He's got a lot of that athletic ability but he's just hard-nosed, he's not going to stop. I think that's the biggest asset is he doesn't know when to stop, it's just constantly go, go, go ... get in his way and he's going to run you over.
"He'll spot the hole and he loves a cutback lane when he sees one, but if there's nothing there, he's going to plow through it," continued Speller. "He's made a few holes over the years.
Horner admits that he's not afraid to take on other team's big guys whenever he has too, and turned a few heads his freshman year when he filled in at running back during 7-on-7s against teams like Delphos St. John's. However, with the running back position already filled by Tevin Hale, who had the seventh highest single-season rushing total at the school with 1,130 yards that year, Horner saw more action on defense and had to wait a year before taking over in the offensive backfield.
When he finally took the reins, he had little trouble stepping up, running for 926 yards on 171 carries and seven scores.
"I love the contact and I just play my hardest," said Horner. "I would go up against big guys (as a sophomore) and not back down."
It carried on through a 1,009 yard, 10-touchdown junior year and through the first eight weeks of the 2011 campaign where every time he hits the field with his "score a touchdown and win the game" mentality, Speller knows exactly what he's going to get.
"He runs a lot like Lance did, just impact, he wants to find contact, he wants to run people over and go as hard as he can," said Speller. "The first tackler is not going to bring him down, it's going to take two or three guys to bring him down. That's what we saw out of him as a freshman and as he's progressed and gotten bigger and stronger and fast each and every year has just made him better and better and better."
Injuries, especially up front, forced senior Austin Speice from his fullback position where he had helped open up so many holes, into the trenches to take over at tackle for injured starter Ryan Kortokrax (6-5, 275 pounds) and then injured back up Brock Worden (6-0, 180). Despite the shuffling, however, Horner still has center Reuben Stoller (6-0, 240), guards Klopfenstein (5-8, 175) and Devon Stahl (5-11, 275) and Pete Sinn (6-2, 280) at tackle with Speice (6-1, 210), who has filled in admirably, and is on pace for his best season as a Raider.
With games against Fairview and Ayersville left in the 2011 season, Horner could better his junior year numbers as he currently stands at 835 rushing yards on 126 carries and eight touchdowns. While it would be a long shot to set the single-season rushing record (1,495 yards by Lance Sinn in 2005), two big games could put him inside the top-5 as Sinn is also fifth when he rushed for 1,158 in 2006.
"I've really enjoyed my career as a Wayne Trace football player and to wear that flag every Friday and to represent this school is just an amazing feeling," concluded Horner, making a point to say that with two weeks left, 'it's not over yet'. "I feel like I'm going to miss it a lot and I'm going to lay everything out on the line (in the final two weeks)."
Regardless of what happens in those final two weeks, Horner will leave the field as the top rusher at Wayne Trace and as one of the top backs Speller has coached in his tenure at the school.
"I think he and Lance are probably 1-2 right now and that's not to slight some of the guys like Tevin Hale, Brad Denning, Ryan Davis and Jamie Edwards, those guys that played running back for us were outstanding as well and we've had a lot of 1,000-yard rushers here, but when you put up the numbers that he did in those three years and take the beating that he took for the last three years, that speaks a lot for him."