Much like the U.S. Army keeps the caissons a rolling along, the Longhorn football team is spinning through its early season schedule.
After opening with a convincing 26-0 win over Fountain Hills, the state top-five-ranked Horns improved to 2-0 on Sept. 5 in PHS stadium with a 49-21 triumph over defending North Region champion Winslow.
In demolishing the Bulldogs, Payson thrived on controlling the line of scrimmage with gargantuan linemen that average 250-plus pounds.
"Our boys dominated the line on both sides, as we should have," coach Josh Anderson said. "I thought we fired off the ball the way I know we are capable of, which we didn't start doing last year until game eight."
By leading the charge in the trenches, the linemen opened nice-sized holes for a stable of talented running backs and protected quarterback Ridge Halenar well enough to allow him to throw four touchdown passes.
The senior signal caller completed nine of 11 attempts for 129 yards and no interceptions.
Halenar spread the ball around well, throwing scoring strikes to Cody York, Payson Herring, Brandon Alexander and Max Johnson.
When the line wasn't protecting Halenar during his five-step drops, it was clearing the way for running backs David Carlen, Brandon Alexander, Nick Goodman and Payson Herring.
Carlen, playing fullback, finished with 119 yards on seven carries. With 10:04 remaining in the second quarter, Carlen kept the Horns ahead on the scoreboard scoring on a 5-yard TD run that capped a nicely executed nine-play, 80-yard drive.
Junior Brandon Alexander broke off a 56-yarder, which turned in the longest run of the evening. Goodman unleashed a 47-yard dart.
The Horns were able to run rampant despite a Bulldog strategy that centered on overloading the line of scrimmage.
"Winslow came out stacked up with four D-linemen on our strong side and we were still able run right through them," Anderson said. "That's a tribute to our line line, as well as our running backs hitting the hole extremely fast and with some power."
Winslow was able to stay in the game early, pulling to within 14-7 and 21-14, thanks to a gutsy performance from quarterback Kraig Shirley and several Horn miscues.
"Their QB is very quick and shifty and hard to get a hold of," Anderson said. "Winslow also capitalized on two mistakes, as good teams do, but we shut them down and made necessary corrections before halftime even came.
"We never had any doubt who was in control of the game."
Following the win, Anderson lauded offensive coordinator Bret Morse who "called a great game" and the improvement the team has shown since the season opened.
"I love the steps we took from week one to week two," he said. "But we can't get too comfortable because teams are only going to get tougher and tougher as we get closer to our East Region opponents."
Defensive, coordinator Kenny Hayes' bandits were led by "Willie" or weak side linebacker Tyler Savage who finished with a game team high 12 tackles, six of which were solos.
"He's smart, athletic and has a nose for the ball," Hayes said.
"Mike" or middle linebacker David Carlen recorded 11 tackles and defensive end Matt Wilson chalked up eight.
Carlen and Wilson also had one sack each.
On special teams, sophomore Westin Gibson had a 62-yard punt return and kicker Josh Frewin made all seven of his conversion attempts.
The coach anticipates the triumph over Winslow could give the Horns a big boost in the team's quest for an advantageous state tournament berth.
"It was a big win due to the power points that Winslow is going to get us," he said.
State playoff seeds are determined at the end of the regular season on power points compiled by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
Around the East
The Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets improved to 2-0 with a 21-6 win over perennial state power Coolidge.
Snowflake is also 2-0 after a 55-13 pounding of Sedona. Show Low beat Chinle 63-0 and Alchesay ran over San Carlos 56-22. In a game of epic proportions, defending 2A state champion St. Johns upset pass happy Round Valley 35-32.
Next up for Payson are the Florence Gophers Sept. 12 in Florence. Kick off is 7 p.m.