Five consecutive losses have done little to dampen the enthusiasm of Longhorn football coach Jerry Rhoades.
"We still have a lot to play for, we must continue to work hard," he said after watching the Horns fall 38-7 Oct. 22 to the No. 5 state ranked Flagstaff Eagles.
With all hopes for a season ending playoff berth at an end, Rhoades says the team must now focus on playing for personal and school pride as well as an early season promise.
"We dedicated this (season) to Jack, we can't forget that," Rhoades said. "We must keep our heads up."
Jack Morris, the Longhorn line coach last year and a PHS alumnus, died last winter from complications of a stroke. At the time of his death, Jack was only 34.
During Sept. 24 homecoming festivities, the No. 70 jersey Jack wore at PHS in the late 1980s was retired.
The players will have the opportunity to fulfill the commitment they made and play for the pride Rhoades speaks of, Oct. 29 in Longhorn stadium against the Page Sand Devils. Kick off is 7 p.m.
The Dust Devils are coming off an impressive 21-14 upset victory Friday evening over Flagstaff Sinagua.
"That was a huge win for them and a big surprise," Rhoades said.
The Horns will enter the game physically beat up by the rigors of the early season schedule and a depleted roster.
The team will again be without several of the starters who did not play in the loss to Flagstaff. The vanquished include quarterback/defensive back Donnie Wilbanks, Z-back/ cornerback Joe Blackburn and guard/defensive end Greg Barnes.
Wilbanks and Barnes are sidelined by knee injuries and Blackburn is suffering from a broken foot.
In most 4A gridiron programs, the loss of three starters probably could be overcome.
But on the Payson roster, with only about 15 varsity players at its zenith, the losses devastated Horn hopes.
With Wilbanks, a two-year starter at quarterback out, junior tailback Luke Apfel was moved to the signal-caller slot for the past two games.
That experiment could be over.
"We'll probably use Chris (Skinner) at quarterback and move Luke back to tailback," Rhoades said.
Most of the early season, Skinner -- a senior -- was the backup quarterback to Wilbanks.
Against Flagstaff, Skinner was at the controls of the Horn offense when Payson scored its only touchdown. It came on Apfel's nearly 60-yard run from the tailback position on an isolation play.
Rhoades has praised Apfel's determination and courage for "playing every snap and never complaining."
The 2004 campaign wraps up for the Longhorns Nov. 5 against the Sinagua Mustangs. Kickoff is 7 p.m. in Longhorn stadium.