The state fifth-ranked Longhorn football team built a 28-0 halftime lead over Round Valley Friday night in Eagar, then coasted to a 55-0 victory.
With the triumph, the Longhorns improved their record to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the region.
The victory margin could have been much greater, if the Payson coaching staff hadn't pulled out the regulars halfway through the third quarter.
"We brought up five jayvees for the game and they formed our offensive line in the fourth quarter," assistant coach Mike Loutzenheiser said.
Also, during most of the late game action the backfield consisted of freshman halfback Luke Apfel and sophomore fullback James Gibson.
Apfel learned the thrill of a first-year player's prep career when he intercepted a pass late in the game and returned it for a touchdown.
Earlier in the game, after Apfel had replaced starter Waylon Pettet, the youngster broke loose on a TD run that was called back on a holding penalty.
The game, in which Round Valley was celebrating its homecoming, marked the quarterback debut of junior Chad McRae. The youngster replaced senior Nate Perna, who struggled a week earlier in a loss to Snowflake. After McRae suffered a slight injury, Perna came on in the second half to take over as signal caller.
"He did a nice job," Loutzenheiser said.
In addition to McRae being slowed, the Horns lost Tyler Williams in the first quarter to an elbow injury. The sophomore fullback, who has built a reputation as a hard-nosed, up-the-gut runner, was replaced first by Ryan Thiel and then Gibson.
The injury to Williams could keep him out of Friday's game against Whiteriver Alchesay, Loutzenheiser said.
Coaches attributed much of the credit for the victory to the offensive and defensive lines. The crew's steady play in Eagar was much improved over what it turned in during last week's loss to Snowflake.
Loutzenheiser predicts that if the line continues to improve, the Longhorns could have the up-front firepower to make a run at the 3A state championship.
The Horns return to the East gridiron arena at 7 p.m., Oct. 18, in Longhorn stadium against the Alchesay Falcons. Because Alchesay has never boasted much gridiron tradition, the Horns will be huge favorites to walk away with a victory.
Oct. 25, the Horns play host to the defending state champion Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets in a 7 p.m. homecoming game.
If undefeated and if region-leading Snowflake wins out this season as expected, second place in the final East standings could be at stake when Payson and Blue Ridge clash.
A victory over the Yellow Jackets also would help pile up power points for the Longhorn cause. Those power points would propel the Horns into a higher tournament seed when the state playoffs begin Nov. 7 and 8.