After spanking Flagstaff Sinagua 44-28 in the regular season opener, the Longhorn freshman football team was jolted back to reality by a 21-6 loss to Desert Ridge.
Against Desert Ridge Sept. 18 on PHS field, the young Horns were pitted against a team that had overwhelming size and speed advantages.
Under the relentless pursuit of Desert Ridge's blitzing and stunting defense, the Horn offense was never able to get untracked.
The sweep plays the Longhorns had used to perfection against Sinagua were stopped dead in their tracks by the defense.
In the victory over Sinagua Sept. 11, the teams battled through a scoreless first quarter. After Sinagua took an 8-0 lead early in the second quarter, Horn quarterback Alex Bunk got Payson on the scoreboard on a 40-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion failed.
Just minutes before halftime, Sinagua scored again to take a 14-6 lead into the locker room.
After a few halftime adjustments by coaches Bo Althoff and Eric Santana, the Horns came out for the third quarter with a vengeance.
Eric Santana Jr.'s 45-yard interception return and a two-point conversion run by tailback Jason Sweet tied the score at 14
Before the dust had settled on Sinagua field, the young Longhorns had posted 38-second half points to earn the team its first 4A conference victory.
"At halftime, we asked them to be playmakers and they did exactly what we asked," coach Santana said.
Coaches said Porter Wilbank's 50-yard kickoff return to open the fourth quarter was crucial to the victory. Tight end Chris Eavenson and fullback BJ Welsh were also praised for their efforts.
Defensively, coaches cited linebacker Zack Rodgers for helping slow the Mustang offensive attack.
The freshmen return to action at 4 p.m. Sept. 25 in Prescott.