A 35-21 loss to state seventh-ranked Pinnacle (5-0) could be attributed to the Longhorn football team's lack of depth.
Leading 21-14 with about eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Horns wilted under the pressure of Pinnacle's superior manpower.
"We only have about 14 kids to play," assistant coach Mike Loutzenheiser said. "Late in the game, we couldn't stop plays we'd been stopping earlier."
Head coach Jerry Rhoades agreed.
"They were so darn big and fast," he said. "We couldn't stay with them."
Before the Longhorns could regroup in the second half, the Pioneers had run off 21 consecutive points and nailed down the victory.
"We hit a wall," Loutzenheiser said.
In addition to suffering from a lack of numbers, a pair of the Longhorns best players, Donnie Wilbanks and Tyler Williams, were not at full strength. Both missed valuable practice time due to injuries and illness.
Wilbanks was able to start as quarterback, but his time on defense was limited. Williams, the starting fullback, was replaced by fellow senior James Gibson.
For Payson, state playoff hopes now hinge on showing well in the Grand Canyon regional competition.
Regional action opens at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 in the Walkup Skydome at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Whipping Coconino will be a load for the Horns to shoulder, but the true test might not occur until Oct. 22 when Payson returns to the Skydome to take on Flagstaff.
The Eagles are currently unbeaten (5-0), ranked sixth in the state and could field one of the finest teams the school has had in the past decade.