The hard-charging Payson Longhorns capped off homecoming week Friday evening on PHS field with an emotional 10-7 victory over Pinnacle.
The victory improved the Horns record to 5-0 and catapulted the team into 10th place in the Class 4A state high school rankings.
Highly favored Pinnacle's (4-1) loss was the first it has suffered this season.
Most importantly in the Longhorns' triumph was the power points it earned for the team.
In the 4A conference, power points based on strength of schedule and wins are used to seed teams into the season-ending state tournament.
Because Pinnacle entered Friday's showdown sporting unblemished credentials, Payson's triumph was worth considerable power points.
Coach Jerry Rhoades has predicted Payson will need the power points of at least seven victories to earn a playoff spot.
If the Longhorns can muster eight wins, the state tournament spot is almost a certainty.
In Friday's homecoming win, Payson jumped to an 2-0 lead when Chris Skinner tackled the Pinnacle punter in the end zone.
After seeing the long snap, on fourth down situation, sail over the punter's head and into the end zone, Skinner battled his way to where the ball was rolling free.
"I thought I could get it (for the touchdown)," Skinner said. "But he picked it up before I got there, so I tackled him."
Leading 2-0 late in the second quarter, the Longhorns expanded the cushion to 8-0 on tailback James Gibson's 3-yard TD run.
On the double dive play, Gibson bulled his way to pay dirt behind an offensive line that was outweighed 25 to 30 pounds per player.
Following the score, the Horn coaching staff opted to try for the two-point conversion on a waggle play.
After faking an off-tackle run, quarterback Donnie Wilbanks rolled out looking for a receiver. Seeing most of his passing options well covered by the smothering Pinnacle defense, Wilbanks spotted fullback Tyler Williams breaking off his pattern to run to an open area.
The broken play pass from Wilbanks to Williams was on target.
Sporting a 10-0 lead at halftime, the Longhorns returned to the field determined to play an error-free second half.
Pinnacle eventually closed the Horn lead to 10-7 on a 45-yard pass play.
Although Pinnacle was able to score a TD, much of the credit for the victory must go to the Payson defense that kept the visitors at bay throughout the game.
Led by (middle) linebacker Cash Armstrong, Rhoades' 43 defense played better than it has all season.
With the win, the Longhorns turned their attention at Monday morning's weight-lifting and practice session to Flagstaff Coconino.
The two teams, both of whom are members of the 4A Grand Canyon Region, will clash at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10 on PHS field.
The game will be preceded Thursday, Oct. 9 by freshmen and jayvee contests. The freshmen play at 6 p.m. on PHS field, and the undefeated jayvees travel to Coconino for a 4 p.m. kickoff.