Horns Stumble Down The Stretch

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A disastrous second half performance in which the Longhorn defense gave up 34 points to Page, ended any hopes the Payson Longhorns had of putting the clamps on their five game skid.

Friday evening on Payson High School field, the Horns took a 13-3 lead into the halftime locker room, but the Sand Devils late surge lifted the demons to a 37-19 victory.

With the loss, the Horns fall to 4-6 overall and 0-4 in the Grand Canyon region standings. All that remains of

what was once a promising season for the Horns is a Nov. 5 clash on PHS field against the Sinagua Mustangs. Game time is 7 p.m.

Against the Mustangs, the Horns could be without the services of junior tailback Luke Apfel who has accounted for most of the Longhorn offense this season.

In the loss to Page, Apfel injured his knee and had to be replaced in the lineup by James Gibson.

According to PHS coach Jerry Rhoades, results of a medical examination done on Apfel early this week were inconclusive.

Rhoades, however, was not optimistic that Apfel would return to the lineup against Sinagua.

"I doubt if we'll have him," he said. "We just have to wait and see."

In the loss to the Sand Devils, the Horns turned in one of their finest performances of the year during the first half of play.

"We did everything right ... played really well," Rhoades said.

But the Horns' second half play was just the opposite.

The turning point of the game proved to be the first play of the third quarter after the Longhorn kickoff had sailed into the end zone.

With the ball at the 20-yard line, the Sand Devils ran a routine strong-side toss -- into a Horns safety-stunt -- that turned into an 80-yard touchdown scamper for Ryan Nagwood. The Mustang running back finished the evening with 134 yards rushing and two TDs. Following Nagwood's score, the Sand Devils tacked on 21 more points to nail down the Grand Canyon region victory.

During the course of the Page rally, while Payson was on offense, Apfel broke free from the line of scrimmage and appeared to be on his way to answering a TD the Sand Devils had scored moments earlier.

But while switching the football from one hand to the other, the junior speedster fumbled.

"He was the fastest player on the field and no one was going to catch him," assistant coach Mike Loutzenheiser said. "I thought it was a sure touchdown."

After recovering the fumble, Page scored two plays later.

Apfel finished the game with 158 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.

In other 4A Grand Canyon region action, No. 5 ranked Flagstaff stayed unbeaten with a 26-12 win over Mingus.

The Eagles can wrap up the Grand Canyon region championship with a win Friday over No. 12 Coconino (7-2).

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