The Winslow Bulldogs -- the Longhorns' foe this evening in Winslow -- have been on a run the past two years. In 2005, Winslow played in the 3A state championship and last year reached the state semifinals before losing a heartbreaker, 28-24, to eventual state champion Coolidge.
During the two year run, Adam Larsen -- a former Bulldog standout who helped Winslow reach the state championship as a senior in 1994 -- coached the team.
But last spring, Larsen left his alma mater for greener pastures in Snowflake.
Rusty Robertson replaced Larsen at the helm of the Winslow team that was expected to again be a state contender despite the loss of several starters to graduation.
Ironically, Larsen's first game as the Snowflake coach was against his former school.
In the Aug. 24 clash, the former Bulldog coach laid a big time, 42-3, whipping on his alma mater.
Larsen's charges scored on their first four possessions of the game and never looked back.
Winslow's only score was Stacey Berg's 35-yard field goal, with nine seconds remaining in the game.
But on the final play of the game, Lobo Logan Rogers returned the kickoff 85 yards to up the final point differential to 39 points.
After watching game films of Winslow's loss to the Lobos, Longhorn defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes is preparing his team for Winslow's jet sweeps, traps and cross bucks.
"They also have an athletic quarterback and he'll throw a bit," Hayes said.
The signal caller is 5-foot 9-inch, 165-pound returning letter winner John Gonzales.
In the dog backfield with Gonzales will be 6-foot, 175-pound senior, Ray Grabowski.
The line is anchored by two-way performer Joseph Larsen, a 6-foot, 2-inch 225-pound senior.
Defensively, the Bulldogs show a variety of looks, including basic 4-3 and 5-2 schemes.
Payson will counter the Dogs' defense with a power option offense that was almost perfect during the first half of the Horns season-opening 28-19 win over Fountain Hills.
PHS signal caller Ridge Halenar showed in the victory that he has the tools and the moxie to run the offense's off-tackle power plays, options and can throw accurately from a five-step drop.
Protecting him is an offensive line that is the biggest in Longhorn history and one that totally dominated the line of scrimmage against Fountain Hills.
The line stalwarts include Scott Andrus, Trevor Day, Zach Burba, Matt Wilson and Bryan Burke. All tip the scales at well over 200 pounds and are good athletes.
If the Horns have weaknesses that need to be shored up before kickoff tonight, it is improved play from second teamers and pre-game hydration that will help the players avoid the cramps that sidelined several of them in the win over Fountain Hills.
Following that game, coach Josh Anderson said the team would be working on a nutrition program designed to limit the cramping problem.
Throughout the practice week, Anderson and his staff also spent time with the reserves trying to "coach em'up" for their time on the field.
"I just didn't like how much of a drop-off we had from a starter to a backup," he said, following the win over FH.
The results of staff's plan to improve play by the reserves and to put on end to the cramping problem will be known tonight. Kick off is 7 p.m. in Emil Nasser stadium.