As expected, the Snowflake Lobos came out throwing Friday evening against the Payson Longhorns.
The result was two quick Lobo touchdowns and a 36-15 romp over the Horns in a loss that put a damper on Payson's homecoming football festivities.
The loss drops the Horns to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the crucial East region standings.
Fortunately for Rim country fans, players and coaches, the team has the opportunity to redeem itself at 7 p.m. Friday evening in Longhorn stadium.
The clash will bring to town the struggling Round Valley Elks (2-2) who, like the Horns, are in a playoff hunt of their own.
With league tough guys Blue Ridge (Oct. 19) and Show Low (Oct. 26) waiting in the wings, a win over the Elks is almost a must if the Horns are to finish among the region's top four and earn a berth in the state tournament.
If Payson can get by the Elks Friday and lowly Whiteriver Alchesay a week later, the team might be in a position to earn a state tournament seed.
Because the East features only six teams, as compared to nine in the South and eight in both the North and West, only two East schools will not advance to state.
Prior to kickoff Friday evening, the PHS coaching staff was painfully aware that the Lobos sported one of the top 3A quarterbacks strong-armed Porter Caldwell.
Early in the week, scouting reports revealed that Caldwell thrived on throwing the ball to wideouts Josh Jacobson and Bryan Elkins.
It was Elkins who was on the receiving end of Caldwell's first two touchdown passes.
The first score came on a 59-yard aerial with 8:52 remaining in the first quarter. A two-point conversion run upped the Lobo lead to 8-0.
Only two minutes later, Caldwell again hooked up with Elkins, this time on an 18-yard aerial. Porter toed the extra point to push Snowflake out to a 15-0 lead.
After being held scoreless in the first quarter, the Horns lit up the scoreboard early in the second stanza on a two-yard run by senior fullback Levi Armstrong.
Not to be outdone, the Lobos countered with another score through the airways. This time, it was Jacobson on the receiving end of a Caldwell aerial that covered nine yards.
Down 21-7, the Horns were still in contention.
But, with only 36 seconds remaining in the half, the wheels came off the Longhorn homecoming wagon when Jacobson returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown.
By building a commanding 28-7 halftime cushion, the Lobos were in command.
Second-half action saw Snowflake up the count to 36-7 on a one-yard run by Caldwell.
Early in the fourth quarter, Payson picked up two points when the Snowflake punter stepped out of the end zone. The safety was credited to Ashton Shewey who was applying pressure on the play.
Quarterback Ky Bradley's 18-yard run with 5:15 remaining capped the game's scoring.
Although Snowflake's 21-point victory margin appears substantial at first glance, the game was actually closely contested.
Payson had more first downs (13 to 11) than Snowflake and sported a much stronger ground attack, outrushing the Lobos (154 yards to 90 yards).
Much of the game, Payson controlled ball possession executing 52 snaps to Snowflake's 40.
When a team has that kind of dominance, it usually wins the game.
But the difference in the two East rivals was through the airways, the big play capabilities of the Lobos and Horn miscues.
Porter finished with 10 completions in 17 attempts for 200 yards. In throwing three touchdown passes, he was not intercepted.
His Payson counterpart, Bradley, completed nine of 19 attempts for 81 yards and was intercepted twice.
Payson fumbled twice and lost one. The Lobos fumbled once, but regained possession.
In total yardage, Snowflake outgained Payson (290-235), but not by a substantial margin.
Like Armstrong did in the first four games of the season, he led the Horn ground game with 77 yards in 19 carries.
With 588 yards rushing already to his credit, Armstrong has stamped himself one of the premier runners in the East region.