Senior Carlan Pontious led the Longhorn charge at the Winslow Invitational running to a second place finish behind overall champ John Bigwater of Ganado.
Pontious was timed in 17:24 and Bigwater in 17:22.
In the race, Pontious opted for the strategy he used in winning the Sludge to the Judge homecoming run by running in the middle of the pack in the early going, then using his speed during a late charge to the finish line.
While the strategy worked at the Sludge run, it came up just short in Winslow.
"If he'd started (his kick) a little earlier, I think he would have caught Bigwater," Coach Chuck Hardt said.
"He was running about tenth midway through the race then started picking (opponents) off one by one until he got to Bigwater."
Also for the Longhorns in Winslow, Carlos Lopez was eighth (17:45) and Bryson Addington 25th (18:36) in the 100-runner field.
Lopez had his best race in the past three weeks and is expected to peak during the school district's two-week fall recess that begins Friday.
"It'll be a recovery week for him and the others, then we'll go to speed work on the hills," Hardt said. "Carlos is good at the speed work and that should help him."
Along with the Longhorns big three of Pontious, Lopez and Addington, three other runners represented the PHS varsity in Winslow.
Max Siverson took 56th in 19:52, Isaac Cluff run to 79th in 21:23 and Joe Schloesser was 86th in 22:08.
The contingent earned 159 points, which propelled Payson to a sixth place finish in the nine-team field.
Ganado, one of the teams favored to win the state championship, was first with a meet low of 55 points.
In the junior varsity competition that drew 63 entrants, the PHS jayvees were fifth overall.
Representing the Horns were Elden Siverson (31st; 22:11), Jesus Hipolito (42nd; 24:03), David Knauer (4th; 24:22), Noah Sweet (47th; 24:31) and Matt Jones (60th; 32:05).
The Lady Longhorns
In the girls competition, Hardt opted to enter two Lady Horns in the varsity meet and his other four in the junior varsity showdown.
Both varsity runners, Rhea Cosey and Lana Cluff, earned medals with top 20 finishes.
Cosey was ninth in 21:29 and Cluff 20th in 22:35.
The varsity champion, Emily Anderson of Coconino was clocked in 19:56.
In the junior varsity event, only freshman Lucy Schouten earned a medal, running to an eighth place showing in 24:37.
Also competing were Marquel Waterman (25th; 28:11), Esther Linkey (19th; 26:35) and Rachel Ward (44th; 34:53).
The PHS teams return to action Oct. 7 when both travel to Sandra Day O'Connor in Phoenix.