They won the statistical battle, but lost the gridiron war.
On prep Friday evening in Wickenburg, the Longhorn football team racked up more total offense than the homestanding Wranglers (211 to 204), but were outscored 21-12.
The loss drops the Horns to 0-2 on the season with lightly regarded Holbrook on tap Friday evening in Longhorn stadium.
The Roadrunners enter the game fresh off a 10-7 loss to the Ganado Hornets.
If the Horns are to break out of their losing funk soon, the 0-2 Roadrunners are just the team to have on the horizon.
Based on last year's results and early season showings, the Roadrunners will not be a title threat to win the North regional championship.
Last year, the game would have been an all-important East clash. But in the spring, the AIA allowed Holbrook to escape the heat of the East and move to the North region where football plays second fiddle to basketball.
Some speculated Holbrook opted to the North to avoid the embarrassment of having sand continually kicked in their face by East-region gridiron tough guys.
Whatever the reasons behind the move, Holbrook opted to keep Payson on their schedule, giving the Longhorns the opportunity to break into the win column.
In the loss to Wickenburg, Longhorn halfback Levi Armstrong scored on a 3-yard option run around right end with 6:03 remaining in the fourth quarter to close the Wrangler lead to 15-12.
Midway through the third stanza, Wickenburg had built a 15-0 cushion over Payson.
After Armstrong's TD, first-year Horn coach Steve Saban opted for a two-point conversion run that was stopped short of the goal. The Horns had several opportunities to mount a go-ahead score drive, but each time the efforts came up short.
After a failed fourth-down desperation attempt by Payson, Wickenburg took over on downs and scored an insurance TD. That tally, an 8-yard run by Brian Herrington, came with 1:12 remaining in the game.
The Horns offensive load in the game was shouldered by Armstrong who rushed 16 times for 72 yards.
Armstrong's younger cousin, Waylon Pettet, rushed nine times for 74 yards and scored the Horns first touchdown on a 1-yard power play behind left tackle Jeremy Greenburg.
Although passing games are the rage of new-era coaches and players, this clash was never an aerial circus. Payson finished 2 for 13 through the airways for a completion rate of 15 percent. With a 17 percent rate (1 for 6), Wickenburg's aerial game wasn't much better.
The good news in the loss is that the team showed considerable improvement while playing a state-ranked team.
"They came ready to play," Saban said. "I'm real proud of them."