A highly promising gridiron season, with a 4-0 start, is now on the edge of disaster.
The low light of the Longhorn slide, from a state third place ranking three weeks ago, was a 42-6 loss Friday evening to the visiting Show Low Cougars.
With the defeat, Payson falls to 6-3 overall and 2-3 in the East region.
As the region's fourth place finisher behind champion Blue Ridge, runner-up Snowflake and bronze medalist Show Low, the Horns will take the East's final seed in the state tournament set to begin Nov. 8.
When the Longhorns were riding high early in the season with convincing victories over highly regarded Wickenburg and St. Johns, a season ending loss to the Cougars, who were struggling, seemed out of the question.
But on Friday night, there was little doubt which was the better team.
After jumping out to a 21-6 halftime lead, the Cougars scored a pair of TDs in the third quarter to squash any come back hopes the Longhorns harbored.
Parson's only score came with 7:17 remaining in the second quarter when halfback Waylon Pettet scored on a five yard run. Pettet's dart to pay dirt capped a nine-play 62 yard drive.
The key to the Cougar victory was the offense's ability to move the ball at will against the Longhorn defense.
The Cougars scored on drives of 95, 92, 81 and 72 yards.
Show Low running back Trale Permar, son of former Cougar basketball coach Al Permar, racked up 113 yards on nine carries. He also scored three of the SL touchdowns.
Most of Payson's offense was chalked up by Pettet who rushed for 154 yards on 23 carries.
With four turnovers and six penalties for 80 yards, the Longhorns were often their own worst enemy.
If there is any good news for the Longhorns, it is that they have a playoff berth and when the tournament kicks off Friday, the team will have the opportunity to right its listing ship.
The first round of the state tournament will be played at the home field of the higher seeded team. The quarter and semifinal rounds are scheduled for Nov. 15 and 22 at Mesa College.
The state championship will be decided Nov. 29 at Tempe McClintock High School.