Longhorn fans, players, administrators and coaches are taking a closer look at the new power points system, now that the structure might be the key to Payson unlocking a berth into the state football tournament.
In the new system, the top three teams from each of the four geographical regions, North, East, South and West, will receive automatic berths into the state tournament.
"The top three teams are protected," PHS first year athletic director Jason Lobik said.
The four region championship teams will be seeded into slots one through four, using power points. The remaining 12 slots are also filled using power points.
In it, teams are awarded 45 points for each victory over a Class 2A opponent, 50 points for a win against a 3A foe and 55 points for a win over a 4A school.
Also, five victory points are doled out for every win over opponents who score a triumph over a team from within the same conference. For every victory over an opponent that wins a game over a team one classification below their own conference, 4.5 victory points will be awarded. Wins over opponents with a win over schools one class above their own conference are worth 5.5 victory points.
To determine a power points total, all points are divided by the number of games played.
Although the power points system was highly controversial four years ago when Payson was left out of the 4A state football tournament, despite posting an 8-2 record, region presidents decided last summer it was needed to fairly seed 16 teams into state tournament brackets.
Lobik realizes the system provokes strong disagreement in some corners, but says it's a format 3A teams will have to deal with it.
"Some (schools) will benefit by it, some won't," he said.
That system, awarding points on the number of victories of your opponents, is very similar to the power rankings that were used in 2003, when PHS was in the 4A conference.
Why power points?
In adopting the new rules, region presidents and Arizona Interscholastic Association bigwigs reasoned the system would reward region champions and allow stronger regions to qualify more than four teams and restrict weaker regions to less than four qualifiers.
For example, the East is traditionally tough in football, so the power points system could allow the region to qualify more than four teams for state.
If Payson should finish fifth in the region behind Snowflake, Show Low, Round Valley and Blue Ridge, the team could still go to state riding atop its power points.
In the old system, a fifth-place team would not qualify for state.
Weaker football regions, like the North, might qualify only three teams.
But in the sport of basketball, the situation could be reversed.
The always-tough North region might send more than four teams to state and the weaker basketball regions might send only three.
"How (power points affect) the school will depend on the sport and the schedule," Lobik said.
Also, presidents say the system provides transition to power points without making "a leap of faith and encourages cross-region play."
Although the power points system is in place for the upcoming school year, presidents must still iron out procedures in dealing with forfeits, canceled games and out-of-state games.
Currently Payson is in reasonably good shape in the battle for a power points berth with a sixth-place ranking among the 28 3A conference member schools.
Payson coach Josh Anderson quick to point out that his team's steadfast power points ranking is due to its 5-0 non-region record.
"We beat Fountain Hills which is a top-three team in the South, Winslow, which is now the number-one team in the North and Chino Valley, which is number two in the West," he said. "We also beat a highly ranked 4A division II team (Bradshaw Mountain), which is doing very well in their region."
Of course, the best scenario for Longhorn faithful would be to finish among the region's top three and not rely on the power points to reach the gridiron promised land.
For that to happen, Payson needs two victories in its final three games of the season.
A win over Alchesay (Oct. 19) is a real possibility. Victories over Blue Ridge (Oct 12) and Snowflake (Oct. 26) are within grasp, providing Payson eliminates the mistakes committed the last two games and battles with the heart and soul of a caged animal.
If that happens, power points be damned.