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Horne twins, beset by injuries, look to finish on top

There never has been any question about the speed and skill of Salaam and A'Laam Horne. Much to their chagrin, there now is no doubt about the twins' toughness, either.

Twins Sa'Laa (front) and A'Laam Horne.
Twins Sa'Laa (front) and A'Laam Horne.Read more(Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)

There never has been any question about the speed and skill of Salaam and A'Laam Horne.

Much to their chagrin, there now is no doubt about the twins' toughness, either.

That's because the seniors for the St. Joseph football team have both battled their way through injuries this season, refusing to miss a game despite playing at times "on one leg each," according to coach Paul Sacco.

"At their best this year, they've been maybe at 80 percent [of full health]," Sacco said. "But they've been pretty good at 80 percent."

The twins will play their final game for St. Joseph in the Non-Public 2 state championship against Hudson Catholic at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Rowan University.

St. Joseph (9-2) will be seeking its seventh straight state championship. The Hornes and the rest of the Wildcats seniors will be looking to finish their careers with a flourish - and to avoid becoming the first class not to win a title since 2008.

"That's very important to us," Salaam Horne said. "We don't want to be the class that broke the streak."

For the Hornes, the game has extra meaning.

Both are four-year varsity players who rank among the most accomplished athletes in the history of one of South Jersey's most accomplished programs.

They were stars in the offensive and defensive backfields as sophomores and juniors, helping St. Joseph to a combined record of 22-1 and almost universal acclaim as the top program in South Jersey.

This season has been different. St. Joseph lost its opener in convincing fashion to rival St. Augustine, needed overtime to beat Millville in Week 3 and suffered another lopsided loss, to Baltimore-power Mount St. Joseph on Oct. 10.

"We're not used to that," A'Laam Horne said.

Several factors combined to limit the team - inexperience along both lines, leadership gaps created by the departure of several highly respected seniors from last season's team.

But the big problem was the Hornes' health. They always seemed to be slowed by nagging knee ailments.

"It definitely was tough at times," Salaam Horne said. "It seemed like sometimes we weren't able to make the plays that we've made in the past.

"I was getting mad at myself at the beginning of the year. I felt like I wasn't doing everything I could to help the team."

A'Laam Horne shared his brother's frustration.

"I was getting caught from behind this year and that never happened to me," A'Laam Horne said. "I felt like I wasn't making the plays that my team expected me to make."

The twins both had knee surgery in this calendar year.

Salaam Horne underwent surgery to repair damage in his left knee in February. He suspects he might have returned to intensive workouts too soon in the summer, leaving him with lingering soreness.

A'Laam Horne underwent surgery to repair damage in his right knee in June. He has made a gradual recovery over the course of the season but doesn't believe he's back to 100 percent.

"They both went through a lot," Sacco said. "It was tough for both of them, and when they get down, the whole team seems to get down."

The Hornes said their frustration peaked after the loss in Baltimore, when St. Joseph was outscored, 29-0.

"That was a team we could have beat," if he and his brother were healthy, Salaam Horne said.

The Hornes said a midseason meeting with Sacco helped ease their mind.

"He told us, 'OK, you're not going to be 100 percent, but be thankful you can play at 80 percent,' " Salaam Horne said. "Some kids don't get to play at all."

The Hornes still wear knee braces and feel they lack the full measure of their signature explosiveness.

But they've still been the driving forces in St. Joseph's resurgence in the second half of the season.

Salaam Horne, a quarterback, has carried the football 123 times for 997 yards (8.1 average) and 14 touchdowns. He also has thrown six touchdown passes.

A'Laam Horne, a running back, has carried the ball 165 times for 1,204 yards (7.3 average) and 18 touchdowns. He also has caught two touchdown passes.

Together, the Hornes have combined to score 36 touchdowns, including 23 in an active six-game winning streak.

The Hornes hope to attend college together and say that Villanova and Monmouth have expressed the most recruiting interest.

They have one more game to play for St. Joseph at the end of a senior season that has been a contrast to their earlier times with the program.

As sophomores and juniors, they showcased their speed, their skill, their big-play ability.

As seniors, they displayed their grit and determination.

"The thing I'm most proud of is that we just kept grinding away," A'Laam Horne said. "We stuck it out. We gave everything we could give."