In one of the finest performances ever turned in by a Payson High football team, the Horns sent the Notre Dame Saints marching out of Longhorn stadium with their halos hanging low.
Friday evening, after a rain-delayed start of about 15 minutes, the Horns (2-0) humbled the visitors with a 55-14 victory.
As lopsided as the victory margin sounds, it could have been worse.
With just over a minute remaining, after reserve quarterback Chris Skinner had run an option keeper to the four-yard line, the Horn signal caller took a knee on four consecutive plays to avoid running up the score.
Head coach Jerry Rhoades substituted at will allowing reserves and jayvee players to see action.
Defensively, Rhoades never opted for any blitzes, stunts or gimmicks, staying instead with one defensive front and a single secondary coverage.
Much of the credit for the victory has to go to the offensive line of Kevin Allen, Greg Barnes, Nick DeGroot, Donnie Engler and Kyle Sachak. All evening, they dominated the line of scrimmage battering Notre Dame's defensive line into submission.
The O line's yeoman-like work up front allowed fullback Tyler Williams and tailback Luke Apfel to run for well over 100 yards each. Unofficially, the Horns option offense ground out over 500 yards.
The Horns were able to dominate the Valley visitors after a ho-hum start in which Notre Dame recovered a Payson fumble, on a pitch from quarterback Donnie Wilbanks to Apfel, and return in 64 yards for a TD.
The Saints 7-0 lead didn't hold long, however. The Horns took the ensuing kickoff and marched it methodically down the field to tie up the game 7-7.
Most of the yardage was picked up on inside drives by Williams or veer options by Wilbanks and Apfel.
Unable to move the ball against a stiff Payson defense, Notre Dame went to the shotgun formation only to see a pass attempt deflected by Wilbanks and intercepted by cornerback Joe Blackburn.
Payson took advantage marching the ball into the end zone for a TD.
After building a 20-7 lead in the second quarter, the Horns expanded it to 35-7 at halftime. With about three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Payson had a 41-14 lead.
Rhoades said he was elated with the team's performance against what he had expected to be a well-coached and well-disciplined Notre Dame team.
Next up for the Longhorns is a Sept. 10 showdown in PHS stadium against the Apache Junction Prospectors. AJ is coming off a 39-20 loss to state No. 10 ranked Sunnyslope. Kick off is 7 p.m.
The PHS jayvee and freshmen teams will play Sept. 9 against Flagstaff Sinagua. The freshmen are in Payson for a 4 p.m. kickoff. The jayvee game begins at 3:30 p.m. in Flagstaff.