A 21-0 win over Fountain Hills didn't help pave the way to a state tournament berth, but it was a huge confidence builder.
That was the feeling Monday morning on the Payson High School football field where the Longhorns gathered for their first full practice since the Sept. 29 win in Fountain Hills.
Because the Falcons are members of the 3A West region, and Payson is aligned in the East, the victory at FH counts on the Longhorns' overall record (3-3) but not the region (1-1).
Clipping the wings of the Falcons was just the morale builder the Horns needed as they enter the roughest stretch of the season.
In the next four weeks, the Longhorns play four consecutive region games.
The results of those will determine whether the Horns finish among the East's top four and earn the resulting berth into the state playoffs.
In whipping the Falcons, the Horns flourished behind a rock solid defense, a rushing offense that churned out 331 yards and a healthy dose of luck.
Sophomore quarterback Ridge Halenar paced the ground game rushing 21 times for 193 yards.
The defense was at its best in the early moments of the second half and the Horns clinging to a precarious 7-0 lead. After Fountain Hills had mounted a 14-play, 74-yard drive that had the Falcons knocking on the goal line door, the defense put on a spirited goal line stand that thwarted the scoring attempt.
Defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes lauded the stand as the turning point in the game.
"If they'd have scored, they might have won," he said.
With 6:51 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Falcons attempted a double reverse with their backs to the goal line.
On the play, a Falcon sophomore running back fumbled the ball, trying to reverse it to a wide receiver running in the opposite direction.
Longhorn strong safety Jason Sweet scooped up the loose ball and rambled about 20 yards for the touchdown.
The TD coupled with Nate Doyle's successful conversion kicked upped the Horn cushion to 14-0.
Payson scored its first touchdown late in the first quarter on a 1-yard plunge by Nick Alexander.
The Longhorns iced the Falcon cake with 15 seconds remaining in the game when Halenar capped an 11-play, 35-yard drive with a 3-yard TD run.
Doyle toed the points after touchdown.
With the win, the Longhorns turn their attention to an Oct. 6 showdown in Longhorn stadium against the Alchesay Falcons.
The Whiteriver crew enters the fray with a 3-2 overall mark, but 0-2 in the East region.
Although the Falcons are struggling, they do boast the East's leading tackler in linebacker Ethan Amos.
Through the years, Alchesay has built a reputation as being more of a basketball school than one that produces great football teams.
But one thing is for sure -- when the Falcons take to the field they are usually armed with every trick and razzle-dazzle play in the book.
For coaches, that means a few more gray hairs as they try to contain Alchesay's antics.
But for fans, it means exciting games that often turn into nail biters.