Remember the elusive passing attack the Longhorns were scrambling for to supplement their vaunted ground game?
The aerial circus -- which had been MIA Aug. 31 in a 21-3 victory at Winslow -- was found Friday evening during Payson's 48-7 win over the visiting Florence Gophers.
Through the airways, junior quarterback Ridge Halenar was almost perfect, completing six of seven passes for 144 yards, no interceptions and three touchdowns.
Showing a nice, soft touch when it was needed, Halenar uncorked a pair of scoring strikes to Tyler Savage and another to Troy Brown.
The first TD pass to Savage, which was thrown with 10:11 remaining in the first quarter, covered 53 yards and coupled with Josh Frewin's conversion kick gave the Horns a 7-0 lead.
Halenar hooked up again with Savage with 1:48 remaining in the second quarter.
The 50-yard scoring strike capped a four play 67-yard drive and gave the horns a 28-0 lead.
Brown's TD pass reception came with 11:02 remaining in the second quarter and capped a five-play 55-yard march.
Although the Horns didn't complete a pass at Winslow, PHS second-year coach Josh Anderson never fretted about the Horns inability to move the ball through the airways.
"I wasn't worried about our passing game because we had such a successful summer in passing leagues," he said. "We just had one of those days throwing the ball against Winslow."
When Halenar wasn't lighting up the Gopher defense with his aerial wizardry, a pair of Nicks -- Alexander and Goodman -- were leading the ground game.
Alexander, a senior fullback, picked up 141 yards in 10 carries. Two of his rushing attempts were for scores.
The first, with 10:20 remaining in the third quarter, covered 50 yards and gave the Horns a 35-7 lead.
On the play, the hard-charging Alexander took advantage of a Gopher linebacker blitz that fell for the option pitch fake.
Alexander scored again with 2:28 to go in the third quarter, hauling Gopher tacklers with him on a 31-yard scoring scamper.
Nick Goodman, a junior tailback, racked up 58 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries.
His first scoring run, in the opening quarter, covered 11 yards and the second, a 14-yard dash, came with 4:13 to go in the third quarter. It all but sealed Florence's losing fate.
Ironically, both Goodman's and Alexander's fathers were teammates on the 1986 PHS team that reached the state championship.
Ty Goodman was the starting quarterback and Alexander, the first team fullback and middle linebacker.
In besting Florence by 41 points, the Longhorn ball carriers racked up 252 yards on 36 attempts.
"D" shines again
While the Longhorn offense was running rampant through the airways and on the ground, defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes' bandits had the Gophers corralled most of the evening.
Florence's only score came with .6 of a second remaining in the first half on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Cash Clemans to receiver Andy Martinez.
Martinez's conversion kick, although it hit the upright, was good, to close the Horns lead at halftime to 28-7.
Other than that TD drive, which covered 64 yards in all, the Gophers were kept in check.
Defensive end Bryan Burke turned in a monster game, chalking up a team high 13 tackles that included two sacks, 25 yards in losses and a fumble recovery.
"He has a motor that doesn't stop," Hayes said.
Brown, playing Willie linebacker, finished with 11 tackles. Middle linebacker David Carlen had eight tackles, as did Savage, at strong side linebacker.
Coach lauds team
Following the game, Anderson said, "it was great to finally see us put all three phases together.
"Our special teams and defense have been keeping us in games, as well as setting us up with great field position."
The coach was also elated that the team didn't experience a drop-off after building a commanding 21-point halftime lead.
"Shoot, we scored 20 (points) in the third. Our summer conditioning is showing its face more and more each week and it's good for the kids to see that their hard work pays off."
The coach was also pleased that the team put forth a well-rounded effort in which all the players contributed.
"We are not a one-man show in any phase of the game," he said. "Each week, a new athlete shows up and takes his turn to shine in the spotlight."
The coach called PHS football games "the greatest show in town, for five bucks or less."
The Horns, now 3-0, return to non-region action at 7 p.m. Sept. 14 at Chino Valley. The Cougars also sport a 3-0 record.
East region standings
Alchesay 3-0-0 1.000 0-0-0 .000 120 28 (W) 42-16 Pregame
Blue Ridge 3-0-0 1.000 0-0-0 .000 155 23 (W) 54-6 Pregame
Payson 3-0-0 1.000 0-0-0 .000 97 29 (W) 48-7 Pregame
Round Valley 3-0-0 1.000 0-0-0 .000 107 14 (W) 48-0 Pregame
Show Low 3-0-0 1.000 0-0-0 .000 112 6 (W) 35-6 Pregame
Snowflake 3-0-0 1.000 0-0-0 .000 121 10 (W) 34-7 Pregame