Win Over Lobos One For Record Books

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The Longhorns have etched their name in the gridiron records books as the only Payson High School varsity football team to win a game in Snowflake.

That victory, by a 14-7 margin, was chalked Sept. 23 in Lobo stadium

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Luke Apfel

In addition to the elusive road win, the current edition of Longhorns is also only the second PHS squad to chalk up a varsity football victory over Snowflake.

In almost 40 years of Payson High football, the only other PHS team to beat Snowflake was the 1999 team that won 26-23 when quarterback Kyle Conway hooked up with Dusty Brockett on a fourth-down desperation scoring strike with 3.4 seconds remaining in the game.

Following that game, Conway predicted that the long and dreaded hex Snowflake held over Payson was at an end.

However, in the six years since the upset Conway engineered, the Horns have failed to again beat the Lobos. The two teams did not play one another during the two seasons, 2003 and 2004, PHS left the 3A East region to join the 4A Grand Canyon ranks.

Coach Jerry Rhoades, in his third year at the helm of the program, said he was unaware of the long dominance Snowflake had enjoyed over Payson.

"That makes our win special, doesn't it?" he asked.

As impressive as the whipping the Horns put on the Lobos was, the fact the Horns did it without two starters -- quarterback Josh Blalock and running back Sheldon Keith -- is jaw dropping.

Blalock is sidelined with a neck injury and Keith missed most of the practice week due to illness.

In Blalock's place, sophomore B.J. Hill got the starting nod and engineered a rock 'em, sock 'em ground attack that chalked up 234 yards. Luke Apfel shouldered the brunt of the rushing attack with 26 carries for 186 yards. The senior speedster also scored both Payson touchdowns. The first came on a 14-yard run with 37 seconds remaining the first quarter. Apfel scored again early in the second quarter on a 69-yard scamper. Fullback Cash Armstrong tacked on 37 yards on 13 carries.

Hill attempted only one pass, a three-step slant in, that was intercepted.

Rhoades said during the practice week the Horns would be working on a passing scheme that could help the fledgling signal caller be more effective.

He also said fans will never think of him in the same vein as former San Diego Charger passing guru Don "Air" Coreyll or pass happy ASU coach Dirk Koetter.

"We'll keep running the ball," he said.

"D" steps up

As efficient as the Horn offense was, it was a stifling defense that frustrated Snowflake.

"When they saw they couldn't run on us, they went to the pass in the second half," Rhoades said.

That strategy didn't work either, as Lobo signal caller Derek Fusselman completed only eight of 21 passes for 38 yards, and had two intercepted by Horn defensive back Joe Blackburn.

On the ground, Snowflake was held to just 14 yards by a rock-solid front seven that included down linemen Zach Rogers, Zach Miller, Donnie Engler, Kevin Allen, Luke Runzo and linebackers Cash and Steele Armstrong.

The Lobos might have tipped their hand in the running game by their alignments.

When the backs were split, the Lobos often ran the veer and in "I" formation, isolations were usually the plays of choice.

The Lobos scored their only TD with 6:28 remaining in the game on a nine-yard run by Payton Reidhead. The score was almost a gift in that it was set up by a Longhorn fumble on the nine-yard line that was recovered by the Lobos.

The Longhorns (3-2 overall, 2-0 in the region) return to action Sept. 30 against state third-ranked Fountain Hills. The homecoming clash kicks off at 7 p.m. and will feature the traditional crowning of royalty at halftime.

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