The heroics of senior speedster Luke Apfel weren't enough to stymie a determined Winslow Bulldog team that turned big plays into a 34-21 win over the Payson Longhorns.
"They beat us on three passes and three running plays," coach Jerry Rhoades said. "Plus they won the field-position battles all night long. I'll bet their average field position was usually about the 40-yard line."
Also in the nonregion clash Sept. 2 in Winslow, the Dogs, Rhoades said, relied on smash-mouth inside trap plays for their big gainers.
"Our defensive line got beat and the (middle) backer was double teamed," Rhoades said.
The Horns managed to keep the score close on Apfel's two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
His second occurred on the second half's opening kickoff and pushed the Horns to a short-lived 14-13 lead.
"We had them down and a plan to win the game, but they came right back with a score," Rhoades said.
Payson scored its third touchdown with an option play in which freshman guard Steel Armstrong pulled and threw a kick out block that helped free quarterback Josh Blalock for about a 50-yard TD scamper.
Blalock, a senior, was playing in his first football game in two years.
Most of this season he has been sidelined with a neck injury. Only a week ago, he was cleared by doctors to return to play.
Sophomore Zach Brooks started as signal caller, but gave way to Blalock in the first quarter before Brooks returned in the fourth.
Next up for the Longhorns is Seton Catholic, at 7 p.m. Sept. 9 in Chandler.
A freshman game will be played at 4 p.m. Sept. 8 on Longhorn field.