Freshman and jayvee victories over Safford Thursday evening coupled with the varsity team's win the following day left little doubt the Longhorn football program is in good hands under rookie head coach Mike Wheelis and his staff.
The freshman team, playing in Safford, rocked the Bulldogs 28-13 behind two touchdowns and two extra-point conversions by Billy Bob Hoyt.
In Payson, the jayvees rode the exploits of quarterback/free safety Nate Perna to a 34-0 spanking of the Bulldogs.
Perna got the junior varsity Horns off and running early in the first quarter on a four-yard scoring run behind offensive linemen Nathan Accord, James Huddlestun and Levi Amon.
A 12-yard scoring scamper by Josh Heglie in the second quarter increased the Horn lead to 14-0.
Tailback Logan Milham's romp around right end on a toss play increased the Payson lead to 20-0 at halftime.
In the second half, the Horns tacked on two insurance TDs to seal the fate of the beleaguered Dogs.
Jayvee coach Jack Morris cited tight end/defensive end Jake Swartwood and tackle/linebacker George Coleman for their contributions to the victory.
Despite being slowed by leg cramps, Swartwood "played a heck of a game," Morris said.
Coleman, a transfer student from Phoenix Greenway, helped Payson dominate both the offensive and defensive lines, Morris said.
Coached by veteran mentor Pete Greer and former Longhorn three-sport star David Daniels, the freshmen debuted successfully with the 15-point victory.
According to Greer, the Longhorn plebes scored on their first possession a 67-yard drive that was capped by a one-yard run by Hoyt.
Blocks by Kevin Moran and Tyler Danielson sprung Hoyt free, Greer said.
With 1:37 remaining in the first half, PHS signal caller Chad McRae hooked up with his cousin, wideout Mark McRae, on a 6-yard scoring pass that gave the Horns a 14-0 halftime lead.
In second-half action, Payson outscored the Dogs 14-13 with stellar defense led by J.R. Szabo, Ashton Shewey and Byron Echols. All had pass interceptions that helped thwart Safford scoring drives.
Echols' theft, which occurred at midfield, was returned for a touchdown.
Because next week's varsity opponent, Canyon State Academy, has no jayvee team, the PHS junior varsity squad will not return to action until Sept. 14 in St. Johns.