A 33-0 victory over the Alchesay Falcons has set the stage for the Payson Longhorns' run at a berth in the postseason tournament.
To earn that goal, the Horns will need at least one win in the final three games of the season.
Those games, Oct. 13 at Blue Ridge in Lakeside, Oct. 20 at Round Valley in Eagar and Oct. 27 against Show Low in PHS stadium, could present the Longhorns with their stiffest competition of the season.
The Horns' best chance at a win might be against the Blue Ridge (4-3) team that has been slowed by injuries. The Jackets, however, showed no signs of being hobbled Oct. 7 in their 64-6 East region win over Holbrook.
The Blue Ridge vs. Payson match up will feature an intriguing sidebar at Friday's game. Former Longhorn linebacker Steel Armstrong transferred to BR two weeks ago after being dismissed from the PHS team for disciplinary reasons. Armstrong played his first game for the Yellow Jackets in the victory against Holbrook.
Armstrong, a sophomore, will be playing against Payson players who have been his teammates since their youth football days.
Beating BR, however, might be the Horns best chance of a win since Round Valley (7-0) and Show Low (5-1) appear to be the class of the region.
BR has lost 33-7 to Show Low and 24-10 to Round Valley.
If the Horns can muster the much-needed victory in the final three games, they would finish 3-3 in the region and possibly advance to state as the East's No. 4 seed.
A fourth seed would pit the Horns against the North region champion, which will probably be the Winslow Bulldogs (6-1).
That clash, should it occur, would be the second meeting of the season between the Dogs and Horns.
On Sept. 1 in Payson, Winslow thumped the Longhorns 24-14. The score is a bit deceiving because Payson played -- for the most part -- on even terms with the Dogs.
The Horns gave up one TD on a blocked punt and another after fumbling on their own 5-yard line.
Since the loss, the Horn defense has improved in leaps and bounds.
Following the game, PHS coach Josh Anderson said he didn't think Winslow was as good as they were last year.
In defeating Alchesay on Oct. 7 in PHS stadium, the Horns jumped on the Falcons for two first quarter TDs and never looked back.
Shane Keith scored the Horns' first touchdown on a 42-yard scamper. Senior wingback Jason Sweet tallied the second on a 7-yard run.
Sophomore quarterback Ridge Halenar, the team's statistical leader, upped the Horn halftime lead to 20-0 on a 4-yard run.
After going scoreless in the third stanza, Payson lit up the scoreboard twice in the fourth quarter on two TDs passes by Halenar. Sweet hauled in the first scoring aerial with 11:15 remaining in the game. About five minutes later, Halenar hooked up with tailback B.J. Hill from eight yards out.
Hill just returned to the lineup after sitting out three games with what was at first feared to be a broken leg but later diagnosed as a high ankle sprain.