Longhorns Hope For Momentum On Their Side

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Ole "Mo" might be on the Longhorns sideline tonight (Friday) in a crucial 3A East region clash against Alchesay.

Momentum appears to have jumped Payson's way Sept. 29 in a 21-0 win over the homestanding Fountain Hills Falcons.

If Mo is indeed now a Horn ally and the team continues the same type of effort it showed against FH, Payson players could wake up tomorrow with another "W" in their won-lost column.

A victory would also keep Horn playoff hopes alive with the toughest three games of the season just over the horizon.

Following the Alchesay clash, the Horns chances for finishing among the East's top four will hinge on the outcome of showdowns against Blue Ridge (Oct 13), Round Valley (Oct. 20) and Show Low (Oct. 27).

The Horns travel to Blue Ridge where the Jackets home field advantage is the real deal mostly because of the huge crowds that turn out.

The Yellow Jackets (3-3 overall: 1-2 in the East) have struggled this year, but the school has a proud 32-year tradition that coach Paul Moro is not about to let vanish.

In Eagar, the Horns must play in the RVHS dome. Playing in those unusual surroundings can take some adjusting whether it is football, volleyball or basketball.

Round Valley (6-0 overall; 3-0 in the East) appears to be the class of the East having outscored their opponents by a whopping 209-30 margin.

Show Low, coached by SLHS alum Danny Hawkins, is also on a roll with 4-1 and 2-1 credentials. The Cougars only loss was 26-7 to Round Valley.

The lineup

The Horns will host the Falcons without two players, Chris Evanson and Zach Rogers, who are sidelined with injuries.

Evanson, a "willie" or weakside linebacker, drew praise from defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes for his efforts against the Falcons.

Rogers starts at defensive end in Hayes' four-man front.

The good news for Payson is that junior tailback B.J. Hill could return to the lineup.

Hill was thought to be sidelined with a broken leg incurred Sept. 15 in a win over Holbrook.

"But, it looks like it was a high ankle sprain," Hayes said. "He'll be back."

The challenge for the Horn D against the Falcons will be to find holes among Alchesay lineman who take no splits.

"They are foot to foot," Hayes said.

The Falcons offensive strategy is to pull the linemen into a type of blocking wedge and then run runs, tosses and traps behind them.

By using that type of rugby philosophy, the Falcons have found success picking up short yardage on most of their plays.

Hayes' bandits will counter by having down lineman "crawl" into the A and C gaps then have the onside linebacker serve as a wedge buster. The other two backers will do mop up duty.

Offensively, sophomore quarterback Ridge Halenar -- who picked up 122 yards on 21 carries against FH -- has supplied much of Payson's firepower this season.

Through the airways, Halenar has shown that he can be effective since the onset of the campaign.

With 571 passing yards, he is ranked third in the East.

If the Horns do have a flaw Coach Josh Anderson wants corrected, it is penalties.

Against Fountain Hills, the Longhorns were ticketed 12 times for 85 yards.

Prep teams can sometimes survive those penalties when playing lesser teams.

But against the likes of Blue Ridge, Show Low and Round Valley, that many flags thrown Payson's direction would be a tough obstacle to overcome.

Kickoff this evening is 7 p.m.

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