The outcome of tonight's season opener pitting the Payson Longhorns against the Parker Broncos could be determined by the team that can make the fewest mistakes.
If the sophomore-laden Horns can keep mistakes to a minimum and force the Broncos into the typical opening games errors, Payson could be 1-0 tomorrow morning.
That's a big "if" for a PHS team that will be fielding several starters who will be seeing their first varsity action.
In facing Parker's Wing-T offense, PHS defense coordinator Kenny Hayes bandits must stuff the trap play, contain the sweeps and thwart the bootlegs in which the quarterback can either run or throw.
Hayes said he would attempt to slow Parker coach Rich Hoyt's offense with a basic 4-3 defense he ran last year under former head coach Jerry Rhoades.
In an Aug. 18 scrimmage against Florence, the defense had its ups and downs giving up a couple of long pass plays.
Hayes said he expects the defensive backfield to be shored up by game time and not allow any long completions.
Offensively, the Longhorns have added some sprint out pass plays to their playbook which will allow 5-10, 158-pound sophomore quarterback Ridge Halenar to throw on the run.
"He is a good runner," Hayes said.
On the injury front, the Horns will have the services of B.J. Hill, last year's starting quarterback who has been converted to wingback. Hill did not play in the scrimmage due to an injury. Punter Cody York is expected to return to the lineup, Hayes said.
Although the Horns are a very young team, they do have more size than previous years.
First year coach Josh Anderson can put on the field 6-2, 255-pound tackle/noseguard Kevin Connor, 6-5, 225-pound tackle/end Bryan Burke, 6-5, 235-pound tackle/nose Matt Wilson and 6-0, 215-pound tackle Keith Schaffer.
Connor is a junior, Schaffer a freshman and Burke and Wilson are sophomores. Although the outcome of tonight's game is crucial to getting the Longhorns off and running on the right hooves, it is not an East region game and has no bearing on Horn hopes of advancing to the state playoffs.
Parker is a member of the 3A West region. East games, which determine state seeding, do not begin until Sept. 15 in Holbrook.
Kickoff this evening is at 7 p.m.
-- To reach Max Foster call 474-5251 ext. 114 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.