After struggling out to a 2-1-1 record early in the 1999 gridiron campaign, the Longhorns could be in for a breather with lowly Alchesay (Oct. 1) and Holbrook (Oct. 8) on the horizon.
But coaches don't want to hear that kind of talk
"Play them one at a time," they say
And that's been sound advice since Knute Rockne first began spewing superlatives in his stirring halftime speeches.
So, the Horn express will try to put the mixed successes of the first four games in the rear-view mirror and focus on Friday's visit to the home of the Alchesay Falcons in Whiteriver.
The school has never claimed to be a football powerhouse as it does in basketball, where the Falcons are almost always state championship hoop contenders. Only last season, former NBA great Kareem Abdul Jabbar abandoned his Los Angeles digs long enough to help coach the school's team.
In the tiny reservation town, basketball is the sport of choice and if there's any doubt, check out the front and back yards of almost every home in the community. Backboards and rims --most broken and bent from years of use --dot the landscape where hoop is king.
But that doesn't mean the Falcons haven't fielded some decent football teams.
Last year the school finished 4-5 and return many of their players off that team.
Through the years, the Falcons have developed the reputation as a razzle-dazzle team that will unveil some of the most bizarre plays. In preparing for the Falcons, the Horn coaches and players must expect the unexpected and be prepared to deal with the hostile crowds which often greet them in Whiteriver.
The key to success there is to avoid the distractions, play the game and get out of town with a "W."
The Horns jumped out to a decent start in East play by slipping past the Round Valley Elks 19-13 in a penalty marred contest played Friday evening in PHS stadium.
The match -- in which there were 17 penalties signaled for 215 yards -- was the divisional opener for both schools.
In the victory, the Horns received commendable efforts from several key players including Dusty Brockett, Chris Knopp, Jimbo Armstrong, Kyle Conway, Caleb Miller and Justin Kaufmann.
In the odd front "D" of defensive coordinator Mike Wheelis, Armstrong was moved to noseguard from linebacker where he was an all-division first team performer last season.
Armstrong responded to the move with a sterling performance assistant coach Jack Morris described as "awesome."
On many RV snaps, Elk players double- and triple-teamed him in an effort to control his bull-like rushes. When Armstrong returned to his linebacker slot, Knopp took over at nose and didn't miss a beat.
Miller might have racked up a game saving tackle just as the Elks were reveling through a late-fourth quarter drive for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown.
On a pass from Elk signal caller Jeremy Finch, tight end Travis Hamblin appeared to been on his way to the Horn end zone.
But from his corner position, Miller made a diving, shoestring tackle that sent the scampering Hamblin -- supposedly one of the Elk's fastest players -- tumbling to the turf.
Morris unequivocally labeled the tackle a "game saver." Head coach Jim Beall said the play was "all heart."
Minutes later, the Horn defense held RV on downs to stall the scoring drive.
Brockett helped the Horns out to an early 7-0 lead on a 65-yard punt return and a successful conversion kick.
On the run-back, Brockett fielded the punt and nimbly split four defenders before breaking to the home side of the field where he outran the remainder of the Elk pursuit.
The play was the final of the first quarter and forced RV to play catchup the remainder of the contest.
After RV scored on a 69-yard pass play to knot the game at 7-7, Brocket again came to the Horn rescue scoring on a 54-yard aerial from quarterback Kyle Conway.
This time the conversion kick was off target but Payson led 13-7 at halftime.
Kaufmann's contributions came as the fullback in the Horn power option offense. In 19 touches, he racked up a game-high 75 yards, most of them on power plays through the interior of the offensive line.
Beall had words of praise for the line, saying their performance was much better than it was in a 40-8 loss to St. Johns last week.
In addition to his TD aerial to Brockett, Conway hooked up with tailback Timmy Bunting on a 38-yard scoring strike with 3:12 renaming in the third quarter that eventually proved to be the game winner.
On the play, Conway -- executing a type of roll out -- found Bunting on a "follow" route. After hauling in the pass, Bunting juked a linebacker and set sail for pay dirt.
Conway finished five of 15 through the airways for 121 yards and two crucial touchdowns.
In jayvee action Thursday evening in the RV dome in Eagar, fullback Alex Cortez led the unbeaten Horn Jayvees to a 14-12 victory.
Morris, also the jayvee coach, cited the play of sophomore Ky Bradley as a key to the win.
Bradley plays both quarterback and free safety.
The freshman team, paced by running back Waylon Quotskuyva, won 20-6.
In earlier games the freshmen beat Winslow 27-18 and St. Johns 25-0 to remain undefeated for the year.
According to coach Lane Stratton, the key to the win over Winslow was James Huddlestun's fourth-quarter interception of a screen pass which he returned for a touchdown.
Stratton also cited Taylor Walden for stellar defensive play with 14 tackles.
In whipping St Johns, Waylon Pettet and Quotskuyva scored two touchdown each.
The outstanding play of the freshmen prompted Morris to call some up for spot jayvee duty. Both Huddlestun and Pettet have played well for the JVs, Morris said.