A 27-7 whipping dished out by the Payson Longhorns left the Show Low Cougars licking their wounds and wondering what happened to a once promising season.
Friday evening in front of the Show Low home crowd, the Horns soundly thumped a bewildering team that opened the season 6-0 but has since fallen on hard times.
Show Low's loss drops the Cougars (6-3 overall, 2-3 in the East) into fourth place in the final regular season standings.
With the win the Horns improved to 5-4 overall, 3-2 in the region, and now advance to the state tournament as the East's third place finisher.
The Horns will open the state playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday evening in Longhorn stadium against Eloy Santa Cruz.
In the win over Show Low, the Horns used a gimmick on the first play of the game to jump out an early lead.
The play, an old-fashioned hook and ladder or hitch and pitch has been on most every coach's play book since Knute Rockne. Most times, its goes down in the record books as a failure, but this time out it was executed to perfection by Ky Bradley, Nate Perna and Waylon Pettet.
Bradley, the quarterback, began by tossing a short pass in the flats to Longhorn wide receiver Nate Perna. After the catch, Perna lateraled to Pettet, a halfback, who was sprinting upfield near the wide receiver.
More than 80 yards later, the speedy Pettet was in the end zone and Payson had a 6-0 lead. Chad McRae's boot upped the count to 7-0.
According to coaches, it was Pettet who suggested the trick play during the bus ride to Show Low.
With 1:03 remaining in the first quarter, Payson tacked on another score when senior fullback Levi Armstrong bullied his way into the end zone. Again, McRae's extra point conversion was successful and Payson led 14-0
Show Low scored its only TD of the game midway through the second quarter on a 21-yard pass to Corban Davis from David Gentry.
About four minutes later, Payson answered with a TD of its own when Bradley sprinted 20 yards to paydirt. McRae's kick upped the Horn lead to 21-7 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Pettet tacked on an insurance TD to up winning margin to 27 points. The two-point pass conversion attempt failed.
In other East play, Blue Ridge's 33-26 win over Snowflake earned the Yellow Jackets the regional title. The Lobos finished as runner-ups.