It was common knowledge all along.
Almost everyone who follows small town high school football knew that Payson and Blue Ridge were the two finest teams in the state despite the fact big city pollsters had unbeaten Wickenburg and 11-1 Fountain Hills as favorites.
The Yellow Jackets proved their worth Saturday evening at Paradise Valley High School totally dismantling Fountain Hills 40-0.
Immediately after Blue Ridge’s victory, Payson took to the PVHS field where the Horns thumped Wickenburg 28-7.
Blue Ridge and Payson’s state semifinal wins set up a state championship clash that will certainly be a game for the ages.
It will kick off at 5:08 p.m. Nov. 29 at Northern Arizona University’s Walkup Skydome.
Since the Horns beat Blue Ridge 13-7 on Oct. 17, the gold medal clash will be an all-East region finale as most prep fans and boosters had predicted all season long.
In whipping vaunted Wickenburg, which entered the state semifinal game 12-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state, Payson unleashed the devastating one-two punch of running back David Carlen and quarterback Ridge Halenar on the Wranglers.
Each scored two touchdowns, lifting the Horns to a 28-0 lead with 8:07 remaining in the game.
The Horns got on the board with 48 seconds left in the first quarter on Carlen’s one-yard plunge to pay dirt.
The TD was set up by a 31-yard pass from Halenar to sophomore wide receiver Westin Gibson.
With 28 seconds remaining in the first half and Payson knocking on the Wrangler door at the nine-yard line, Halenar used a quick snap to sneak into the end zone from one-yard out. The TD and Josh Frewin’s conversion kick gave Payson a 14-0 lead.
The score also capped an impressive 13-play 99-yard drive.
In the first three minutes of the second half, the Horns tacked on two more touchdowns to erase any hopes the Wranglers had of advancing to the big show.
Wickenburg, the West Region champion, scored its only TD late in the game on Chance Thompson’s one-yard plunge.
See the Nov. 25 edition of The Payson Roundup for complete coverage.