Two fumbles and a bad snap in the course of four plays ended Longhorns hopes for a state quarterfinal win over two-time defending 3A champion Coolidge.
The "shoot your self in the foot" scenario unfolded Friday evening at Chandler Perry High School in Gilbert where the small, but speedy, Bears defeated Payson 16-14.
With the two teams tied 14-14 and about eight minutes remaining in the game, the Longhorns took possession of the ball at their end of the field.
Starting quarterback Ridge Halenar returned to the game, after being relieved earlier by Zack Brooks, to begin what Horns fans were hoping would be a game winning drive. But after two fumbles and a running play that went no where, the Horns were forced to punt.
Long snapper Bryan Burke's snap sailed over punter Nick Herring's head and into the end zone. The punter had no choice but to run out of the end zone after the bad snap giving the Bears a 16-14 lead via a safety.
In the final two minutes, the Longhorns attempted to engineer a last gasp game winning drive. It, however, ended when Coolidge defensive back Kevin Mitchell intercepted an under thrown Halenar pass to seal the Bear win.
The safety was the only points scored in the second half.
The Longhorns lit up the scoreboard with 7:26 remaining in the first quarter on sophomore tailback Brandon Alexander's 7-yard run over the left side of the line. Josh Frewin's kick gave the Horns a 7-0 lead.
Alexander's run capped a workman-like 13-play 84-yard drive.
Not to be out done, Coolidge roared back on its first offensive possession with a 14-play 67-yard drive that culminated with Jeremy White's 6-yard TD run.
Coolidge took the lead midway through the second quarter on fullback Brad Jackson's 18-yard burst through the middle of the Payson defense.
Late in the half, Payson (8-4) put together another impressive drive going 80 yards in 12 plays. With 5:09 remaining in the second quarter, Nick Alexander bulled his way into the end zone from three yards out.
Just before halftime, the Horns had an opportunity to take a lead into the locker room but Frewin's 33-yard field goal attempt appeared to be nicked off target by a hard charging Coolidge defender.
The Horns worked their way into field goal range on senior tailback B.J. Hill's 51-yard run and Tyler Savage's 15-yard pass reception. Hill turned in a banner final game of his career rushing for 152 yards on 17 carries.
In the third quarter, Payson had another chance to score after going 62 yards on 12 plays to the Coolidge 21. But after two penalties and a quarterback sack, the Horns turned the ball over on downs.
With Coolidge's win, the Bears advance to the state semifinals against the Round Valley Elks.
If Payson had defeated Coolidge (10-2) , all four state semifinalist teams would have been from the East region.
In addition to Round Valley in the final four, Blue Ridge and Show Low also advanced with victories Friday night.