The Class 3A state football tournament kicks off today, Friday, without the Longhorns.
Payson (4-6 overall; 2-4 in the East) did not qualify for the big show after finishing fifth in the East region final regular season standings.
The East's four qualifiers include region champion Round Valley, runner-up Show Low, third place finisher Blue Ridge and the fourth and final seed Snowflake.
Players from Alchesay, Holbrook and the Horns will be watching state action from the sidelines.
Round Valley (10-0), probably the East's best chance for producing a state champion, begins 3A tournament action at 7 p.m. against North four-finisher Window Rock (4-5).
Show Low will take on North bronze medalist Tuba City (5-5) and Blue Ridge travels to North region runner-up Monument Valley Kayenta (8-2).
Snowflake and North champ Winslow, a 2005 state finalist, will also meet in the opening round.
In a Sept. 8 clash between the two longtime rivals, Winslow prevailed 27-20.
All opening round games will be played at the home site of the higher seeded team.
The state tournament will allow fans of all qualifying teams, especially Seton Catholic (9-0), Wickenburg (10-0) and Round Valley to finally settle the debate over which is the better.
But before backers of those teams settle on a favorite, they shouldn't overlook defending state champion Coolidge (8-1). The Bears only loss this season has been to Seton.
Quarterback Jessie Wheeler, who has thrown for 1,572 yards, engineers the Coolidge offense and is regarded as one of the state's better all-around athletes.
Also in the Coolidge arsenal is running back T.I. White who has scored 90 points and rushed for 922 yards.
With the racehorses the Bears have in their stable, they'll be tough to beat.
If there is a surprise team in the state mix, it is the Parker Broncos who limped in with a 2-8 overall record and a 2-4 South region mark. As lowly as Parker's credentials are, the team did finish fourth in the South.
Payson whipped the Broncos 29-6 in the regular season opener. Survivors of the first round will meet Nov. 10 at a site to be determined. The semifinals will be held Nov. 17 at Mesa Community College and the championship at 4 p.m. Nov. 24 at Tempe McClintock High School.