The Alchesay Falcons were just the remedy the gridiron doctor prescribed to cure Longhorn ills.
By clipping the Falcons wings 40-8 Oct. 20 in Whiteriver, the Horns (6-3 overall and 1-2 in the East) put the skids on a three-game losing streak and assured themselves of a berth into the postseason playoffs.
"The game could not have come soon enough for us so we could get back our confidence," coach Josh Anderson said.
Although the win was a team effort with most players on the roster contributing, it was quarterback Ridge Halenar and reserves Cliff Lopez and Cody Sexton who supplied the victory spark.
Halenar was perfect through the airways, completing six of six passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 46 yards on three carries and played the heady game that has become his trademark.
Lopez was called up from reserve status to fill in at tailback, after B.J. Hill injured an ankle and Nick Goodman was moved to fullback.
Lopez finished with a team high 112 yards on nine carries. His longest scamper was a nifty 49-yarder. Sexton took over at safety after starter Shank Keith was sidelined with a collarbone injury. He responded with 10 tackles, tying defensive end Matt Wilson for second most on the team. Middle linebacker David Carlen was credited with 14 takedowns.
The efforts of Lopez and Sexton were a mild surprise for Anderson.
"They both went above and beyond my expectations for them," he said. ‘They were a big factor in our win and both have gained a lot of respect among our team."
Payson rolls early, then stalls
In the win, Payson jumped out to a 6-0 first quarter lead on a 44-yard scoring pass from Halenar to Carlen. Josh Frewin's kick was wide left.
The Horns tacked on a second TD on a two-yard run by Brandon Alexander that capped a sterling 9-play 91-yard drive. Frewin toed the extra point.
Alchesay responded by scoring its lone TD on a 14-play 70-yard drive that featured the outstanding efforts of Julio Parker, who finished with 104 yards on 25 carries. Frank Larzelere scored the TD on a four-yard run.
With 1:05 remaining in the first half, Halenar hooked up with Zack Brooks on a 16-yard scoring pass. Frewin's conver sion kick gave the Horns a comfortable 20-8 halftime lead.
The Horns tacked on two more TDs in the third and another in fourth quarter to win the East region clash going away.
Following the game, Anderson lauded the Falcons saying, "It is not a bad team at all. I truly believe if they were in the North region, they would be first or second up there."
Anderson also praised the Falcons, "as a good physical team and one whose offense is ball-controlled and eats up the clock with every possession."
The coach cited offensive coordinator Bret Morse for his call playing that ate up the game clock and kept the Falcons "O" off the field.
The win over the Falcons also positioned the Horns to possibly earn a tie for third place in the final East region standings.
For that to happen, Payson must beat the Snowflake Lobos Sept. 26 in both team's season ending clash.
Anderson is optimistic the Horns can cage the Lobos, "when we beat Snowflake, they will have the same record (2-3) as us and Round Valley in the region."
If such a three-way tie would occur, the first option in state seeding would be the results of head to head matches.
"But since we have all beaten each other, the head to head tiebreaker is out of the picture," Anderson said.
Which would mean, region and conference AD's would turn to the power points system for seeding.
Since Payson will probably have racked up more of those points than Snowflake or RV, the Horns would receive the advantageous No. 3 seed and possibly open the postseason at home.
"Our playoff picture now looks a whole lot better," Anderson said.
Kick off against Snowflake is 7 p.m. in Longhorn stadium. The evening has been designated Senior Night.
Anderson is hoping for a huge turnout of Horn fans, " I want to emphasize how important it is to have a big home crowd."