Nate Doyle's toe and Luke Apfel's running lifted the Longhorns to a pulsating 17-14 homecoming victory over the state third-ranked Fountain Hills Falcons.
Before an overflow crowd Sept. 30 in Longhorn stadium, Apfel rushed for 300 yards and scored two touchdowns, but it was Doyle's 24-yard field goal with 23 seconds remaining in the game that nailed down the hard-earned victory.
Prior to the winning kick, the Longhorns engineered a do-or-die, four-play, 60-yard drive to get in position for the field goal.
Doyle, a junior, who also plays soccer for Payson High, tacked on two successful extra-point kicks.
The upset win paid dividends Monday morning when state prep football polls ranked Payson for the first time this season. With a 4-2 record, the Horns are sitting in the No. 5 position behind No. 4 Chandler Seton Catholic (4-1), third-ranked Coolidge (4-1), runner-up Lakeside Blue Ridge (5-1) and top-ranked Round Valley (5-1).
The Elks took over the top spot from Blue Ridge by defeating the Yellow Jackets Sept. 30 15-7. RV's win ended the defending state champion Jacket's 17-game winning streak.
In the Longhorns' win over the Falcons, Payson erased a 7-0 deficit with 11:35 remaining in the second quarter on Apfel's 4-yard TD run. The score capped an eight-play, 76-yard drive.
In the third quarter, Payson went up 14-7 on Apfel's 29-yard scoring scamper.
Fountain Hills tied the seesaw showdown with 4:52 remaining in the game on a 1-yard run by H.P. Rollins. Alex Groh, also the Falcon's signal caller, toed the extra point to tie the game 14-14.
For the evening, the Longhorns finished with 333 yards rushing, none of which came through the airways.
Of the Horns six pass attempts --three by sophomore quarterback B.J. Hill, two from Shelton Keith and one by Apfel -- none were completed.
The Horns also fumbled three times and lost two.
Defensively, the Horns received a second successive solid effort from their front seven, holding the Falcons to 195 yards rushing. Most of those yards -- 100 -- were racked up by Rollins on 19 attempts.
Entering the game, coach Jerry Rhoades expressed concern over the passing ability of Groh, saying he had "a big-time arm."
The Horn "D," however held him to six completions in 14 attempts for a paltry 35 yards.
With the victory over the Falcons, the Longhorns now return to all-important 3A East region play. In the next four weeks, Payson faces Alchesay (Oct. 7), Blue Ridge (Oct. 14), Round Valley (Oct. 21) and Show Low (Oct. 28). The outcome of those games will determine which region seed -- 1, 2, 3 or 4 -- the Horns -- now 2-0 in the East -- will take to the state tournament.
In other East region games Sept. 30, Show Low whipped Alchesay 45-26 and Snowflake dumped hapless Holbrook 55-7.
Click here to view a community photo gallery of Homecoming 2005.