The Payson Longhorns dominated the Prescott Badgers in every aspect of the Sept. 24 homecoming match except where it counted most -- on the scoreboard.
In front of an enthusiastic and boisterous crowd, the Badgers edged out a 29-24 victory that left onlookers wondering how Prescott could have returned to the Mile High City with a victory.
The Horns ground out 386 yards in total offense to Prescott's 226. The Horns had 19 first downs to Prescott's 16. Payson also maintained possession of the ball for almost three more minutes than the Badgers and was penalized three fewer times. Payson was forced to punt on only two occasions. Prescott punted five times.
The answer to Prescott's win lies in the Badgers gaining good field position on every possession and the play of its special teams.
The biggest play from the Badgers' special teams occurred with 16 seconds remaining in the first quarter and Prescott clinging to a 7-6 lead. Following the Payson touchdown, the Badgers' Chris Reed returned the Longhorn kickoff 95 yards for their second touchdown.
The score coupled with a successful two-point conversion pass lifted the Badgers to a 15-6 lead they never relinquished.
The Horns closed the Badgers' lead to 15-12 with 10:42 remaining in the first half on a TD pass from Donnie Wilbanks to Derek Hoosava.
Later in the quarter, after three failed long pass attempts by the Horns, the Badgers returned a Payson punt to the 35-yard line.
Three plays later, Prescott signal caller Ricky Odorofer hooked up with Reed on a 24-yard scoring pass that lifted the Badgers to 22-12 at halftime.
In the third quarter, with 1:30 remaining, Tyler Regnier capped a 13-play 80-yard Prescott drive with a seven-yard TD run. The score pushed Prescott out to a 29-12 lead.
The never-say-die Payson gridders, however, came roaring back with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Both TDs were scored by junior tailback Luke Apfel who rushed for 150 yards on 14 carries.
Goodbye, No. 70
The homecoming clash opened with the retiring of former PHS football coach Jack Morris' No. 70 jersey. Morris died Feb 23 of complications from a stroke.
During his days at PHS, 1984-1987, Morris wore No. 70. At the ceremony, coach Jerry Rhoades presented the retired jersey to Morris' wife, Dawn, mother Terry and family.
The halftime ceremonies included the crowning of homecoming king, Donnie Wilbanks, and queen Haylee Huff.
Earlier in the day, a homecoming run and the Sludge to the Judge cross country race were held on Main Street.
The Horns, who are now 4-1, will return to action at 7 p.m. Oct. 1 at Pinnacle High School. Sept. 30 on PHS field, the Horn freshmen (4 p.m.) and junior varsity (6 p.m.) teams will host Pinnacle.