One of the most emotional evenings in Payson High School football history wrapped up Friday evening with a failed two-point conversion attempt that would have sent the Longhorns and visiting Flagstaff Sinagua into overtime.
With the misfire on the extra point pass -- which occurred with 50 seconds remaining the game clock --inagua survived a 14-12 victory.
As exciting as the gridiron clash was, center stage much of the evening was garnered by a stirring tribute paid to senior running back James Gibson.
Earlier in the week, Gibson's mother, Darlene Gibson-Morales, died. She was only 46.
Throughout the week, students, teammates and friends of James consoled and rallied around him during his time of grief.
Supporters also began a benefit fund to collect almost $7,000 in burial costs for James' mother.
James, who was obviously very close to his mother, said he was deeply moved by the resounding support given him.
Because the game had been designated "Parents Night," special recognition was given James who had his stepfather and older brother on the field during the parents' tribute.
Graveside services will be held for James' mother at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Mountain Meadows Memorial Park, Upper Round Valley Road.
Horns drop sixth straight
In the loss to Sinagua, the two Grand Canyon rivals battled to a scoreless halftime tie. Entering the final quarter, Sinagua clung to a 7-6 lead before upping it midway through the stanza to 14-6.
With less than a minute remaining, the Horns scored to pull within 14-12.
On the unsuccessful two-point conversion, quarterback Chris Skinner unsuccessfully tried to hook up with the wide receiver, who was actually lined up as a tight end on an out pattern.
"He was double covered," coach Jerry Rhoades said.
In the loss, the Horns were without the services of their leading ground gainer tailback Luke Apfel.
The speedster, who also starred as a cornerback, injured his knee a week earlier in a loss to Page, and didn't practice all week or dress out for the game.
The Horns were also without senior Donnie Wilbanks who was the starting signal caller most of the past two seasons.
Wilbanks injured his knee three weeks ago and has not played since.
Skinner, formerly a tight end, took over at quarterback.
Senior Tyler Williams moved from fullback to tailback to fill in for Apfel.
Several other injuries also forced Rhoades to juggle his lineup switching players from position to position. Often, Horn gridiron schemes resembled musical chairs more than football.
Although Williams was playing out of position, he finished with 91 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
The loss to Sinagua ended what was a once-promising season that turned disastrous after a Sept. 24 homecoming loss to Prescott.
The Horns opened the campaign with four straight wins and were ranked among the top-15 teams in the 4A conference.
The season, however, ended with a disappointing six game losing streak.
Rhoades anticipates the team, and its 10 seniors, will gather one final time during the first week in December for the traditional awards ceremony.
An exact date or place has not been settled, but the coach anticipates the ceremony will be held at the Mazatzal Casino.
At it, Rhoades will announce any players who earn all-GCR honors after coaches gather next week to vote for the honorees.
Some of the gridders will now turn their sports attention to basketball and wrestling.
Gibson has opted to play basketball for the first time in his high school career.