Snowflake's relatively easy 33-8 season-opening win over Winslow hasn't lessened Payson coach Josh Anderson's respect for the Bulldogs.
"We are going to see a very young but very talented Winslow team," he said. "We have to be ready for a hungry Bulldog squad."
Kickoff in the 3A nonregion game is 7 p.m. this evening, Sept. 5, in PHS stadium.
In taking on the Dogs, Payson must be prepared for a team that appeared to be running a spread offense in their pre-season scrimmage against Fountain Hills, but switched to a power-option run attack against Snowflake.
What scouting reports do show is that the Dogs run a base defense with few stunts, twists or blitzes.
"They try to keep things simple, which I think helps their athletes read and react a lot better," Anderson said. "Their coaches are doing a good job of working on their weaknesses from week to week."
Although the Dogs won't field a team with the massive line that Payson does, several Winslow players have shown considerable quickness and talent.
"They have a lot of speed and agile RB/WR type and the QB has a very strong arm and is very quick and elusive in the open field," Anderson said. "It's tough defensively to face teams with a good running quarterback."
The signal caller the coach was lauding is Kraig Shirley who beat out Stacey Berg for the starting position. Berg now plays receiver and is the team's punter and place kicker.
Having nimble, swift and nippy players is nothing new in Winslow, where legendary coach Emil Nasser, 87 --ow a member of the Arizona Coaches' Hall of Fame and for whom the school's football stadium is named --uilt a winning tradition using those type of athletes.
In Bulldog land, they still talk about the speed and elusiveness of former stars like Burton Belton, Winston Belton, Robert Gray, Lee Wasdon and Roosevelt Van who led Winslow to victories during the school's glory days in the 1950s and 60s.
Horns now 1-0
The Horns take on Winslow on the heels of a season-opening 26-0 win over Fountain Hills.
Although the victory was just the triumph the team had its sights on, reviews of it are mixed.
"The way the game ended, with so many penalties, it left a sour taste in our mouths -- to the point where we were not happy with the win," Anderson said.
But, upon further review, the effort wasn't as distasteful as first thought.
"Not until watching film on Saturday morning did we realize there was way more good than bad throughout the game," Anderson said.
The coach attributed the team's lack of second-half production (it scored only six points after posting 20 in the first half) to miscues and missed assignments.
"It was due to our stupid mistakes resulting in penalties," Anderson said. "So, after watching film there are obviously things that need to be corrected, but I'm very excited about where the team is right now."
What the Horns will have against Winslow is a well-rounded offensive attack that can be potent on the ground as well as the air.
Quarterback Ridge Halenar completed six of 10 pass attempts, two of which were to wide receiver Tyler Savage for touchdowns.
On the ground, senior Nick Goodman rushed for a team-high 89 yards, which included a longest run of 70 yards.
Sophomores Payson Herring and Cliff Lopez both saw extensive playing time and combined for 62 rushing yards. Another sophomore, Westin Gibson, showed well on a kickoff return and as a punter.
If there is an area the team wants to shore up, it could be on the "O" line and place kicking.
The line, which averages well over 250-pounds, did not dominate as it should have and place kicker Josh Frewin misfired on two extra point kicks. One, however, was blocked.
Kicks are crucial, because conversion points can mean the difference between winning and losing once the rugged East region games roll around.
Making good on the kicks should be no problem for Frewin, who proved last year he is one of the better kickers in the 3A conference.