The Pioneer Title Invitational boys soccer tournament allowed Longhorn players the opportunity to test their skills against some of the state's best small school teams.
In the fray contested Sept. 29 and 30 at Rumsey Park and at Payson Elementary School, the Longhorns put on a stellar showing, finishing with a 3-1-2 record.
The Horns defeated St. Johns, 3-2, Grand Canyon, 4-1, and St. Paul, 3-0.
Payson's lone loss was by a 2-1 margin to state championship favorite Sedona. The Longhorns dead knotted, 2-2, against Valley Lutheran, and tied -- for the second time this season -- against Round Valley, 1-1.
"We keep tying Round Valley, but we have one more chance, Oct. 17, in Eagar, to show them what we are made of," first year coach Austin White said.
Shane Tuer scored the Horns lone goal against the Elks.
Against Sedona, Payson was battling a talented team that dominated the Longhorns Aug. 26 in a season opening scrimmage.
"This game, (we) were a totally different team than we were then," White said. "Our defense held them to two goals and our offense scored.
"We were one of the two teams to score on Sedona in our tournament, and we kept their scoring to the lowest."
For the Horns, A.J. Hilgendorf tallied on an assist from David Hernandez.
In the tie against Valley Lutheran, Tuer scored on an assist from Hilgendorf and Luis Chavez turned an assist from Tanner Schaal into a goal.
In beating St. Johns by a single goal, Tuer again scored, as did Hernandez and Chavez.
In the last meeting between the Longhorns and Redskins, Sept. 16 at Rumsey Park, Payson survived a 1-0 thriller scoring in the final minutes of play.
In whipping Grand Canyon, a coed team, Tuer was on fire scoring two goals. Nic Creighton and Eric Lammers also lit up the scoreboard. Chavez contributed two assists to the win.
"We really did well with passing and looking for the open player," White said.
The coach also lauded the Grand Canyon effort, "They played with great enthusiasm."
In whipping St. Paul, the one-two punch of brothers Chad and Eric Lammers each scored a goal. Hilgendorf allied on an assist from Creighton.
"The entire team played very well," White said. "This game really showed we have a complete and good team.
"No matter who was in, they held the lead and battled."
With the tournament in the record books, several PHS players are now among the 3A East region's best.
Hilgendorf leads the East in assists with 10 and Tuer is ranked second in goals with nine.
By recording nine steals, Moratti is the region leader.
Following the tournament, White tapped Hilgendorf as the recipient of the sportsmanship award.
"He never utters a word of disgust during practice or during the games," White said. "Athletes like him keep coaches coaching."
White also cited other members of the team for their cooperation and teamwork.
"The team has quite a few boys that deserve the sportsmanship award," he said. "We as coaches are complimented constantly on our athletes (good) behavior.
"Boys will be boys and have an occasional slip-up but the entire community should be proud of this team."
The coach also lauded the defense of Schaal, Moratti, Tuer, Eric Lammers, Chad Lammers, Hunter Hardt and Derek Williams.
"All of them work great together and have become a defense to be scared of," he said. The team returns to play Oct. 11 at St. Johns. Game time is 4 p.m.