Much to the chagrin of Longhorn faithful, there will be no repeat state championship in 1999 for the Payson High School football team.
The goal of winning a second successive crown -- only the third state football title in the school's history -- came to an end Friday evening in Globe with a disappointing 30-28 loss to the homestanding Tigers.
Last year, the season ended on a much brighter note with the undefeated Horns whipping Blue Ridge to win the Class 3A crown.
With Friday's victory, Globe moves into the state tournament's second round Nov. 12 at Mesa College.
The Longhorn players, however, must hang up their gridiron equipment and begin preparations for the winter sports of basketball and wrestling.
The past campaign -- one in which the team finished a respectable 5-4-1 -- was an up-and-down, topsy-turvy ride that featured more than it's share of peaks and valleys.
After opening the season Sept. 3 with a highly controversial 6-6 tie against the Safford Bulldogs, the Horns rebounded to humble Arizona Boy's Ranch 49-0 one week later.
Playing without two starters who had been suspended for disciplinary reasons, the Horns had the services of the pair Sept. 17 but their return didn't help matters much during a 40-14 loss to Class 2A powerhouse St. Johns.
In mid-season, the Horns rallied to go on a four-game winning streak that culminated Oct. 15 with a 26-23 come from behind win over the Snowflake Lobos.
In retrospect, the victory was the highlight of the season in that it was a PHS varsity football team's first-ever win over a Lobo squad. Also, the triumph nailed down a state tournament third-place seed for Payson.
The season took a decided downswing the following two weeks with loses to Blue Ridge 49-7 and Show Low 40-0.
Coaches cited Payson's overall lack of team speed as one of the deciding factor in both loses.
Unable to improve upon their third-place divisional standing with a win over BR or Show Low, the Longhorns were forced to open the state tournament on the road against South division representative Globe.
The Tigers -- who were coming off a 3-6 season in 1998 -- were the surprise team of the year finishing as the South runner-up with an 8-1 mark.
Prior to the game, PHS coach Jim Beall predicted his Longhorns, the underdogs, had a chance to pull off an upset if the team's defense could keep Globe's wishbone offense in check.
Neither the Payson defense nor that of the Tigers proved to be much of a stifling factor in the first half as both teams moved the ball handily.
On short TD plunges --one from Kyle Conway and two from Justin Kaufmann --the Horns took a 21-14 lead into the halftime locker room.
Although Globe was relying on the running of Mike Belinger who finished with 146 yards on 18 carries, the Tigers two scores came on long TD passes from signal caller Nick Buzan.
With 3:23 remaining in the first quarter, Ricky Aargon hauled in a 51-yard scoring pass from Buzan. Midway through the second quarter, Aargon was again on the receiving end of a Buzan aerial, this time a 43-yard completion.
In the third stanza, the team's defenses dominated play as both squads failed to score. However, Globe dominated time of possession executing 19 snaps to only seven for Payson.
The Horns clung to the narrow seven-point lead throughout the early minutes of the fourth quarter thwarting every Globe scoring threat.
But with 9:58 remaining in the game, Tiger Lincoln Hance romped to pay dirt from nine yards out to close the Horn cushion to 21-20.
Rolling the dice, the Tiger coaching staff opted for a two-point conversion rather than going for the kick which would have tied up the game.
Possibly influencing their strategy was the fact Globe's only kick attempt of the game, after the first TD, went astray.
The take-the-lead mentality proved successful when Belinger scored to give Globe their first lead of the game 22-21.
Just over two minutes later -- following a crucial Payson fumble --Belinger took advantage of the Horn miscue by scoring on both a 37-yard TD run and a two-point conversion. Belinger's heroics lifted the Tigers to a 30-21 lead with 7:34 remaining.
The Horns breathed their final sigh of gridiron life with an old-fashioned trick play executed in the final 37 seconds. After corralling a short pass from quarterback Conway, Dusty Brockett latereled to running back Timmy Bunting who scooted into the end zone culminating a hook-and-ladder play that covered 27 yards.
Brockett's extra-point kick closed the final count to 30-28.
Former Payson High School football coach Don Heizer loved to greet every excuse given by players and fans by saying "If 'ifs and buts' were candy and nuts, everyday would be a holiday."
Heizer could have a heyday with the loss to Globe.
"If" Payson could have stopped the two-point conversion runs of Belinger, the Horns would today be pointing toward the state quarterfinals.
Belinger scored on three two-point conversion attempts -- a total of six-points in a two-point loss.
One stop of Belinger and the game goes into OT. A pair of stops and Payson goes home a winner.
"If" the Payson D could have put the clamps on the Tiger ground attack that churned out 249 yards, the Horns would have been victorious.
And "if" the Horn secondary hadn't been burnt on two long Tiger bootleg passes from Buzan to Aargon, Payson could have taken a 21-0 lead into half-time.
"But," some might say, Globe had the all-important home-field advantage that more often than not results in victory.
The Horns had the opportunity to control their own destiny in the final two games of the season. A win over either Blue Ridge or Show Low would have given the Horns a runner-up finish in the East and an opening round game on home turf.
No candy. No nuts. And, no holiday in Payson.
Around the tournament
In other opening round games, Coolidge beat Round Valley 11-3; Blue Ridge humbled Eloy Santa Cruz 42-0; Parker upset favored Winslow 41-28; Show Low cruised past Safford 40-0; and Wickenburg ambushed Tuba City 41-6.