Still reeling from the effects of last week's 14-7 upset loss to St. Johns, the Payson High School football team will try to regain its winning ways this evening (Friday) against Round Valley in Eagar.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. in the Round Valley High School dome.
Although it's early in the season, the East Region contest is crucial for both teams.
Round Valley jumped out to a 1-0 East start with a thrilling overtime win last Friday over Alchesay. A regional win this evening would bode well for the Elks as the team bugles toward a top-four East finish and the resulting state berth.
For Payson now 2-1 the game represents an opportunity to prove the Horns can play on even terms with the regional powers.
But a loss to RV with league tough guys Snowflake, Show Low and Blue Ridge waiting down the road would put a crimp in the Horns' playoff hopes.
No doubt about it, both RV and Longhorns desperately need to post a "W" if either is to extend its season into November.
The Longhorns will take to Eagar an offense paced by rough-and-tumble Levi Armstrong. The junior tailback leads the team in rushing (265 yards on 42 attempts), all-purpose yards (365) and punt returns (six for 54 yards).
Fullback Steve Williamson also has contributed with 82 yards rushing in 18 attempts.
Although the statistics of the duo are more than adequate, it is the absence of the pitch-option in the team's offense that helped spell the Horns demise in a 14-7 loss to St. Johns Friday evening
Kickstarting the option game is almost a must if the Horns are to emerge from Eagar with a triumph.
Through the airways, junior quarterback Ky Bradley has shown a propensity to make good decisions by refusing to put the ball up for grabs. He has completed 36 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
So far, his favorite receiver has been wideout Dusty Brockett (eight receptions for 96 yards). Scotty Garduno has hauled in three aerials for 96 yards.
Both Brockett and Garduno have the athletic ability to out fight defenders for the ball. Those pass-catching abilities could lead to the Horns airing out the pigskin more often.
Scoring honors with 28 points goes to the multi-talented Brockett who has tallied three touchdowns, kicked seven PATs and booted one field goal.
Defensively, new head coach Mike Wheelis credits linebacker Reed Hatch for anchoring the Horns 52 "D." Also drawing praise from the coach was defensive end Sterling White.
Following the visit to Eagar, the Horns return to East play Sept. 29 in Longhorn stadium against Alchesay. Kickoff is 7 p.m.