Longhorns Prepare To Battle Cougars

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Did a homecoming hex lead to the demise of the Longhorns during the team's 35-28 loss Oct. 25 to the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets?

Or did other factors weigh in on one of the most disappointing gridiron showings this season?

The answers to those questions will probably never be known. But the facts of the dreadful evening are that the Horns were their own worst enemies.

Just ask the coaches for proof.

"We were terrible; undisciplined," defensive backs coach Mike Loutzenheiser said. "I couldn't believe it; we hadn't played that way all year."

"I felt we defeated ourselves," coach Steve Saban agreed. "We couldn't stop them defensively when we needed to."

The Horns also didn't get the breaks when they needed them. One of the worst apparent miscues occurred midway through the game when Payson defender Tyler Williams appeared to strip the ball from the Blue Ridge quarterback and return it for a touchdown.

The play, however, was called back by game officials who ruled Williams didn't strip the ball because the quarterback's arm was in motion. The play was ruled an incomplete pass.

"The TD should have counted," Saban said. "I watched the play over and over (on tape) and the QB's arm was not going forward."

According to Saban, the referee later apologized to him and Williams admitting that he missed the call.

Although the loss was tough to swallow, Saban did see some positives in the defeat.

"Hopefully a game like this makes us stronger," he said.

When the Longhorns play host this evening (Friday) to the Show Low Cougars, the players will be trying to correct problems suffered a week earlier.

At stake in the regular season-ending game is third place in the final East standings and a more advantageous berth into the state tournament when it begins Nov. 8.

If the Longhorns (6-2 overall, 2-2 in the East) lose to Show Low, they would fall to fourth place and possibly open the state tournament on the road.

The first round of state is played at the home of the highest seed.

Against Show Low, the Horns will probably continue to call upon the one-two running punch of Waylon Pettet and Tyler Williams for yardage ad points.

This season, Pettet playing halfback has rushed 116 times for 1,068 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Williams, a sophomore fullback, has racked up 385 yards on 87 carries. He also has scored 11 touchdowns.

Through the airways, tight end Mike Barr leads the Horns in receptions with 21 for 405 yards and five touchdowns.

Defensively, linebacker Layton Howell is the team leader in tackles with 39. He also has contributed three blocked punts and two interceptions. Pettet, playing safety for defensive coordinator Jimbo Armstrong's bandits, has 33 tackles. Senior defensive end Jake Swartwood has contributed 27 take downs.

Kickoff is 7 p.m. this evening in PHS stadium.

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