Lobos Squash Horns Playoff Hopes

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Jubilant Snowflake football faithful are whisking their brooms in celebration of last weekend's clean sweep over the Payson Longhorns.

The Lobos domination of the Horns kicked off late Thursday afternoon in Longhorn stadium where the Snowflake freshmen nipped a good Horn plebe team 6-0. With the loss, the Rim country rookies fell to 4-2.

Later that same evening, also in PHS stadium, Snowflake poured on the woes by upsetting a previously undefeated Longhorn jayvee squad 12-6.

The Lobos capped the trifecta Friday evening in Snowflake with a 12-7 win over the Longhorn varsity.

For Payson fans, the disturbing note in the Lobo hat trick was that it came at a time when the Longhorns appeared to be ending the longtime dominance Snowflake has enjoyed.

In the history of varsity football between the two schools, Payson had never beaten the Lobos until 1999 when a last-second, desperation pass from Kyle Conway to Dusty Brockett lifted the Longhorns to a thrilling 26-23 upset.

Coupled with freshman and jayvee wins one day earlier, the three victories seemed to spell an end to Snowflake's longtime hex over the Horns.

But, Snowflake's trio of recent wins indicates Payson could be back in the shackles it once languished as the whipping boy of the Lobos.

After watching his jayvee team succumb for the first time this season, Payson junior varsity coach Jack Morris, also a varsity assistant, said he was impressed with Snowflake's younger players.

Playoff hopes all but over

Losing to Snowflake will long be a sore point in Payson, but the most disturbing news in the defeat is that it ends the Longhorns' hope for a berth in the season-ending state tournament.

With a 2-2 East region record (4-3 overall), the Horns are all but eliminated from a top-four finish and a seed into the "Big Show."

The Horns have two regional regular season contests remaining Oct. 20 against top-ranked and undefeated Blue Ridge, and Oct. 26 against defending state champion Show Low.

Both the Jackets and Cougars will be heavy favorites to defeat the Longhorns and advance to state as the East's top two seeds.

Even if the Horns could pull off miraculous upsets over BR and SL, they still wouldn't advance to state unless both Snowflake and Round Valley which beat Payson 28-7 Sept. 22 falter in their final two regular season games.

So, it's turn out the playoff lights for the Longhorns they'll be playing only for pride against both the Jackets and Cats.

What was at stake

Both Snowflake and Payson entered Friday's crucial contest knowing a state tournament berth rested on the outcome of the game.

The Lobos responded to the challenge of the showdown by unleashing an old nemesis on the Longhorns quarterback Jeff Reidhead.

In last year's Payson victory over the Lobos, Reidhead proved extremely tough to deal with, filling the airways with perfectly thrown spirals that accounted for most of Snowflake's offense.

Only a second half defensive adjustment allowed Payson to finally curtail Reidhead's aerial antics and escape with the narrow win.

Friday evening, the strong-armed Lobo signal caller picked up where he left off in 1999 by hooking up with wide receiver Josh Jacobson on a 13-yard scoring strike. The TD pass, which came with 1:01 remaining in the first half, lifted Snowflake out to a 6-0 lead. A two-point conversion run was stuffed by the Longhorn defense.

The Longhorn offense, which was held to just 158 yards, finally got on track with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter.

Waylon Pettet, running a tailback counter behind a block by guard Levi Amon, broke free on a nifty 51-yard TD scamper.

Coupled with Dusty Brockett's successful point-after kick, Payson enjoyed a 7-6 lead.

The stirring TD run and PAT kick seemed to breathe life into the Horns, who had earlier appeared all but dead.

However, the celebration lasted only about five minutes before Reidhead rose to the occasion by lofting a 13-yard TD strike to teammate Ricky Brimhall. Again, the two-point conversion run failed.

The score, which came with 8:51 remaining in the game, was all the offense Snowflake needed to nail down the victory.

The Longhorns had one last gasp to salvage a victory after taking over possession on the ball inside their own 5-yard-line with less than two minutes remaining.

But, the miracle of 1999 couldn't be repeated as the clock ticked down spelling defeat for the Longhorns.

"We just ran out of time," Morris said.

The stats

If there was one glaring statistic that pointed out the reason for the Horn defeat it would be turnovers.

By throwing two interceptions and losing two of three fumbles, the Horns were their own worst enemies. Four turnovers in a single game is a tough obstacle to overcome, no matter how focused or committed a team might be.

The pair of interceptions, both thrown by Ky Bradley, were an aberration of sorts for the junior quarterback.

In six previous games this season, the normally proficient Bradley had thrown only three interceptions and was frequently lauded by coaches for his accuracy and decision making.

Against Snowflake, however, he was just 2-of-11 through the airways for 25 yards.

Offensive honors in the game went to Pettet, a sophomore speedster, who was playing in his first varsity start at tailback.

Pettet finished with 109 yards on 19 carries.

Senior cornerback/tight end Caleb Miller drew praise from coaches for his determined play on both sides of the ball.

"He had a great game," Morris said.

What's left?

The good news in the remaining regular season schedule is that both the Blue Ridge and Show Low clashes will be home games for the Longhorns. Kickoff time is 7 p.m. for both encounters.

The Horn freshmen, now 4-2, will visit Lakeside Oct. 19 for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff against Blue Ridge. The jayvee game, also in Lakeside, will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The PHS underclassmen wrap up the 2000 campaign Oct. 26 in Show Low. Kickoffs are 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

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