Payson's 55-14 romp over the visiting Alchesay Falcons quickly turned into an evening in which many junior varsity players could showcase their gridiron skills.
After building a 36-0 halftime lead Friday, the Longhorn coaching staff quickly emptied the bench, allowing many of the underclassmen, including sophomore James Gibson and freshman Luke Apfel, to pick up valuable varsity experience.
Wilbanks makes good show
Midway through the third quarter, jayvee signal caller Donnie Wilbanks replaced senior quarterback Nate Perna.
Wilbanks turned in a commendable performance, completing two of five passes for 15 yards.
Most importantly, the youngster didn't throw an ill-advised interception that could have breathed a bit of life into the Falcon effort that was doomed from the opening quarter.
After recovering a fumble on the first play of the game, Payson went on a four-play drive that culminated with halfback Waylon Pettet scoring on a seven-yard run.
Perna pass a highlight
The highlight of the drive was a 25-yard pass from Perna to tight end Mike Barr.
Perna, who last week lost the quarterback position to Chad McRae, got the starting nod Friday and finished six of 13 through the airways.
A trio of his aerials went for touchdowns.
The first, which came with 1:57 remaining in the first quarter, was a 51-yard strike to Pettet.
With 9:12 remaining in the second quarter, Perna passed six yards to Mark McRae.
After the Payson defense held the Falcons on downs and Layton Howell returned a punt for 40 yards, Perna hooked up with David Curtiss on a five-yard TD pass. Chad McRae's extra point kick was wide right, but the Horns had a 36-point lead.
Pettet pushes numbers up
Early in the third quarter, just when it looked like things couldn't get any worse for the hapless Falcons, Pettet broke loose on an 80-yard TD scamper.
Pettet finished the evening with 186 rushing yards and two TDs.
In 13 attempts, he's averaged a whopping 14.3 yards per carry.
On the season, Pettet who is receiving recruiting attention from the University of Nebraska is just 28 yards shy of the magical 1000-yards rushing.
Hoyt punts pack punch
In addition to the rushing antics of Pettet against Alchesay, the Horns received a solid effort from Billy Bob Hoyt who returned a fourth quarter punt 87 yards for a TD.
On the evening, Hoyt had three punt reports for 145 yards.
His performance will probably generate a few doubts in the minds of Blue Ridge coaching about kicking in his direction.
For the season, Hoyt is averaging 20-yards on 17 returns.
Defensively, coach Jimbo Armstrong's Longhorns held the Falcons to 152 yards of total offense.
The defensive backs turned in a solid showing, allowing Alchesay to complete just one pass for 12 yards.
The hard hitting Payson crew caused six fumbles and intercepted two passes.
Individually, Payson was led by linebacker Ashton Shewey who finished with six tackles and one blocked punt.
Cash Armstrong, Pettet and Howell contributed five tackles each.
The win over Alchesay propels the state fourth-ranked Longhorns record to 6-1 (2-1) in the region.
The Horns only loss, 31-24 on Oct. 4 to top-ranked and unbeaten Snowflake, will probably prevent the Horns from earning an East region championship.
However, a win over Blue Ridge Friday evening would be a giant step in earning a runner-up showing and an advantageous berth into the state tournament when it begins Nov. 7.
Other regional games
In other East region games played Oct. 18, Snowflake defeated Show Low 27-13 and Blue Ridge walloped Round Valley 33-8.
Outside the East, second-ranked Coolidge edged Seton Catholic 28-26 and third-ranked Winslow whipped Keams Canyon Hopi 43-0.
Former Payson High School coach Curt LeBlanc's Queen Creek Bulldogs thumped Eloy Santa Cruz 27-17.
Jim Beall, also a former PHS coach, saw his Higley team lose 27-14 to Parker.