Broncs Will Try To Upset Longhorns

Advertisement

Throughout history, long-suffering underdogs given little chance of triumph have risen up to pull off colossal upsets.

The Biblical David slew Goliath, Harry Truman won the 1948 presidential election, the Patriots of the 13 colonies defeated far superior British forces to gain independence, the Parthians -- outnumbered four-to-one -- defeated the Romans at the Battle of Carrhae and 1-AA Appalachian State beat No. 5 ranked Michigan, 34-32 in a college football 2007 season opener.

photo

Running back Brandon Alexander (22) looks for a hole in the Snowflake defense after receiving the handoff from Ridge Halenar (22). Blocking for Brandon Alexander is tight end David Carlen (32). School official are reminding fans that no school or season passes will be accepted at tonight's first round state playoff game against Parker.

Remembering those upsets would bode well for the Payson Longhorns, as they prepare to open the state tournament today, Friday, against the Parker Broncos. Kick off is 7 p.m. on PHS field.

Recalling the history of the downtrodden is crucial to Horn state hopes, because the Broncos enter the 3A tournament opener as decided underdogs, bent on derailing the Horn express, as it steams towards its goal of a berth in the state championship.

The Bronco's small fry status can be attributed to their non-winning 4-5 record, 11th-place seed, fifth-place finish in a relatively weak West region and a lopsided loss, 35-7, to a Chino Valley team that the Longhorns handled relatively easily.

The MaxPreps Web site as gone so far as to predict Payson will beat Parker by a 35-6 measure.

As much a favorite as the Longhorns (7-3 and 2-3) appear to be on paper, there are those on the banks of the Colorado River who believe the Broncs can spring the upset of the prep football season against the Horns.

As evidence, they point to Parker's narrow 21-17 loss to undefeated, state second-ranked and west region champion Wickenburg.

If a break or two had gone the Broncos' way, Parker would be celebrating a rousing victory, rather than wallowing in a gut-wrenching loss.

photo

The senior members of the Longhorn football team will be playing the final home game of their career this evening, Friday, against the visiting Parker Broncos. Kick off is 7 p.m.

Also, the Broncos opened the season beating an Eloy Santa Cruz team, 35-28, that has qualified for state as a No. 14-seed. Parker also owns a regular season 24-22 victory over a decent Estrella Foothills (5-5) squad.

Individually, the Broncos feature a quarterback, Cel Hernandez, who averages more passing yards per game, 107.4, than does Payson signal caller Ridge Halenar (92.8).

But Halenar operates out of a power option run-oriented offense and Hernandez pulls the trigger in a spread attack, in which he throws about 60 percent of the time.

Halenar has completed 71 of 128 passes, for 928 yards and 11 touchdowns.

With Parker in the spread-passing formation, one of the options PHS defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes has at his beck and call is to stunt, blitz and play press man coverage, in hopes of getting to Hernandez.

But Hayes tried that in the first half against pass-happy Round Valley and it didn't go well. So, expect the Horns to remain in a base 43 defense and play zone coverage, probably cover 2.

The Broncos leading rusher, Nick Grenwalt averages almost as many yards per game, 89.1, as does Payson's top ground gainer, Nick Alexander, who sports sports a 90.1 mark.

Alexander, a 5-foot, 8-inch, 195-pound senior, led the East in rushing until he had sub-par outings against Round Valley and Blue Ridge, picking up only a combined 89 yards in both games.

Fans must remember, however, most of Alexander's yards are racked up on inside traps and dives off the power option where real estate can be tough to come by.

If the Broncos hold a commanding edge over Payson, it might be with a punter, Cory Madoneczky, who is averaging a whopping 45.81. His high school mark is good enough to be a point of pride for almost any college or NFL punter.

By contrast, Payson punter Nick Herring leads the East region with a 36.13 average but even that mark is far less than the distance Madoneczky is booting.

Parker also features a top-notch defender in senior Loren Page, who has 83 tackles and five pass interceptions. Both marks are fifth-best in the West region.

Payson's leading tackler, middle linebacker David Carlen, is second in the East region with 120 takedowns.

If Payson holds a trump card other than its superior talent and a tougher schedule, it could be the long and trying bus trip the Broncos must make before arriving in Payson.

As any PHS coach who has made the trip from the Rim Country to Parker will testify, the lengthy jaunt is tiring, burdensome and not conducive to playing well.

The schedule

Payson enters the postseason clutching a No. 6 state seed, by virtue of the team's power points (67.05) and tie for third place in the region final standings.

Although Payson, Round Valley and Snowflake all finished 2-3 in the East and 7-3 overall, the Longhorns received the higher seed, because PHS had more power points than the Elks and Lobos. Round Valley compiled 65.0556 points and Snowflake posted 64.6500.

Payson's greater total can be attributed in part to a midseason win over Class 4A Bradshaw Mountain. Defeating teams from a larger school size classification is worth bonus points in the newly instituted PP system.

If Payson can slip past Parker in the open round of 16, the Horns would play the winner of a first round match up, pitting No. 3 Coolidge vs. No. 14 Santa Cruz. That game would be played at 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at new Chandler Perry High School.

Coolidge, the South region kingpin and defending state champion, is a huge favorite to defeat the Dust Devils.

A second-round win for Payson would send the Longhorns into the state semifinals at 5 p.m. Nov. 16 at Mesa College.

The likely opponent would be No. 7 Round Valley or No. 2 Wickenburg.

If there is a bit of luck in the seeding system for Payson, it's that the Horns are aligned in a bracket opposite top-ranked and undefeated Blue Ridge.

If the Horns are to meet the Yellow Jackets in the tournament, it would have to be in the championship finale set for 5 p.m. at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

No admission passes, except AIA

Admission for tonight's game vs. Parker is $5 per person.

Because the game is an AIA tournament affair, no season passes will be accepted and there are no senior citizen or student discounts.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.