In the Jeopardy category "Garden City Football," the answer is "every week." The question: How frequently did Connor Horl play with fire and burn the opposition?
The award, voted on by Nassau coaches, has been presented since 1975. This year's other finalists were Bill Sweeney of Garden City and Chris Richards of Farmingdale.
"Connor's a bit of a throwback who played hard every Saturday," Garden City coach Tom Flatley said. "Basically, he was relentless. He's not one to take plays off and that's tough when you play both ways."
It's no surprise that the Trojans had two finalists for the Martone. They completed a 12-0 season by defeating North Babylon, 9-6, last Friday at Hofstra to win the Long Island Class II title. A major reason was a suffocating defense led by Horl, Sweeney and linebacker Steve Jahelka. "They were pretty much invincible," Flatley said of a unit that allowed only 2.3 points per game.
"This award means a lot," Horl said, "because no one at Garden City has ever won it."
Garden City shut out seven of its eight regular-season opponents, allowing only a field goal to Long Beach. In the playoffs, the Trojans surrendered their only touchdowns against Carey (21-19) and North Babylon and posted two more shutouts.
"Our defense was special because we all had jobs," Horl said after receiving the award. "Sometimes my job was to take on two blockers so someone else could make the tackle. It was never about one person's glory. It was about the team."
Horl, a finalist last year, was both an immovable object and an unstoppable force. And he wasn't afraid to display his jubilation after he blew up a play in his opponent's backfield.
"He was the emotional leader on defense. He brought it every week," Flatley said. "Teams tried to run away from him, so we'd line him up in different places, week to week. We'd match him against the best players and he'd always make big plays."
Eleven times Horl made tackles behind the line of scrimmage, an impressive number for a defensive tackle.
"When something good happened, I wanted to fire up everybody," Horl said of his emotional displays. "Myself, my teammates and the fans. Sometimes I had to control myself."
He was also a starter on the offensive line, a less heralded unit that, amazingly, did not allow a single sack in 2009. "He's a good, solid blocker," Flatley said. "We didn't throw a thousand times and we used quick drops, but it is an amazing statistic. Connor rarely got beat as a pass blocker."
In 2009, he rarely got beat, period.