Longhorns Set For Biggest Clash Of Season

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The table is set for the Longhorn football team's biggest clash of the year.

That gridiron feast will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday in Lakeside against the state top-ranked and undefeated Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets.

All season, coach Paul Moro's state defending champion Jackets (7-0) have demoralized teams by lopsided margins that reached 50 and 60 points.

When then undefeated and state second-ranked Show Low took its Cougar attack to Lakeside two weeks ago, the cats were licking their wounds from a 61-0 clawing.

In the White Mountains, fans are proclaiming the Yellow Jackets are a shoo-in to win the East title, finish undefeated and stake claim to the state championship.

To do so, the Jackets must get past a Payson team that is fresh off Friday evening's 67-0 win over the lowly Alchesay Falcons.

A victory over outmanned Alchesay is almost a given for any East school, but the game did give coach Steve Saban the opportunity to tune his team's offensive and defensive machinery for Blue Ridge.

The Horns will challenge the Yellow Jackets sporting 4-3 credentials and a 2-1 East region record. The two East wins have earned the Longhorns at least a fourth-place seed into the state tournament. A win over the Yellow Jackets, as unlikely as it might seem to the state's football fans and pollsters, would improve the Longhorns berth into the state tournament.

A key to an upset in Lakeside will be the offensive line of Kevin Moran, Levi Amon, Sean Pickle, Jeremy Greenburg and Ingo Beck.

If the "O" can control the line of scrimmage and is able to execute successful blocks on BR's outstanding crew of linebackers, Payson can remain in contention.

In a Wing-T offense, like Payson features, much of the blocking of the linebackers must be done by the tight end.

The blocks are known as "BOB's" or "Be On Backer."

That hefty responsibility will fall directly on the shoulders of 6-foot-5-inch, 215-pound sophomore tight end Mike Barr.

In Friday's win over Alchesay, Barr had to be carried from the field on a stretcher after a questionable block by an Alchesay player knocked him unconscious.

"He was hit in the jaw," Saban said. "(The hit) was unnecessary."

According to defensive coordinator Jack Morris, Barr is expected to be back at full strength for the Blue Ridge game.

If Barr and the "O" line execute successfully in Lakeside, running backs Waylon Pettet and the team's leading rusher, senior fullback Levi Armstrong, will have the room they need to run.

A strong game from the line will also allow quarterback Ky Bradley to execute the waggle, or boot leg plays he runs so successfully.

In the spanking of the Falcons, Bradley got the Horns off and running on a 60-yard dart around right end off the waggle play.

Throughout the game, Bradley continued to confuse the overpursing Alchesay players with the waggles.

Fans can bet the family ranch that Blue Ridge's defensive ends and linebackers will be much better coached at containing the waggles and boots.

When the Payson defense takes the field in Lakeside, it will have to contend with a well coached, lightning-quick offense that is the talk of the state.

No team this season has been able to stall the Yellow Jackets' well-balanced offense once it gets untracked.

In an effort to slow the Yellow Jackets, Morris said he will continue to call upon the team's basic 52 defense that features a variety of stunts, blitzes and pass converges.

Whether his bandits, paced by Bradley rotating at strong safety and linebacker, have the ability to play on the same field with Blue Ridge won't be known until Friday evening.

The varsity game will be preceded Thursday by freshman (4:30 p.m.) and jayvee clashes (6:30 p.m.) in PHS stadium.

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