A 12-7 loss to Flagstaff Coconino Friday evening in Longhorn stadium put the skids on the Payson Longhorns five-game winning streak.
As a first-year member of the Class 4A conference, the Horns (5-1) were not expected to be much of a force among the big schools. But Payson surprised almost everyone by winning its first five games before narrowly falling to Coconino.
PHS line coach Jack Morris, a member of the Longhorns 1986 state finalist team, attributed the loss to missed opportunities.
"We had the ball inside the 20 (yard-line) five times and didn't score," he said. "We also couldn't pick up first downs on two fourth-and-short situations."
Although the Longhorns' offense sputtered most of the evening, the defense was formidable.
"Defensively, we played well," Morris said.
In the low-scoring battle, Coconino took a 6-0 lead in the second quarter and held onto it until midway through the third stanza when quarterback Donnie Wilbanks hooked up with tight end Mike Barr on a 15-yard scoring pass, Morris said.
Nick Degroot kicked the extra point to give the Horns a 7-6 lead. Early in the fourth quarter, Coconino scored what eventually proved to be the winning TD.
At the Monday morning practice, players and coaches worked to put the loss behind them and prepare for Friday evening's showdown against Mingus.
The clash will be a homecoming of sorts for first-year PHS Jerry Rhoades.
Last year, Rhoades was the defensive coordinator for the Marauders and coached many of the players who make up the varsity team. He also maintains a friendship with the Mingus coaching staff.
Since both Payson and Mingus feature 43 defenses and Wing-T offenses, the two teams could be mirror images of one another.
Kickoff for the game, which will be the Marauders homecoming, is 7 p.m. in Mingus.