A convincing 55-21 win over the Bradshaw Mountain Bears catapulted the Payson Longhorns to the top of the Arizona Interscholastic Association Power Point Rankings.
Which means, if the 3A state tournament kicked off today, the Horns (5-0) would advance to the post season as the No. 1 seed and be pitted against the 16th and final seed, which is now Holbrook (2-3).
Of course to maintain the prestigious top seed, which a PHS team has never earned in the history of power point rankings, the Horns must play well during the final five games of the regular season, all of which are rugged East clashes.
In the latest PP rankings, Blue Ridge (5-0) is second with 38 power points. Payson has 39 thanks in part to the win over class 4A Bradshaw Mountain, which was chalked up Sept. 26 in Prescott Valley.
Wickenburg, the team ranked No. 1 in most state polls, sits in fifth place in power points with 35.
Payson’s win over Bradshaw Mountain could be named “The David Carlen Show” mostly because the 6-foot, 2-inch, 214-pound senior left little doubt he was the star of the gridiron production.
Playing fullback, Carlen rushed 11 times for a whopping 210 yards that included a 74-yard scamper with 4 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Carlen also scored on a 30-yard first quarter run that capped a three play 77-yard drive. The score lifted the Horns out to a 10-3 lead.
Payson fans have not seen those types of running antics since Luke Apfel was setting school rushing records three years ago.
Defensively, Carlen finished with eight tackles, seven of which were unassisted.
“David had a tremendous day running the ball as well as his defensive efforts,” head coach Josh Anderson said. “It’s fun to see each game which kid is going to step up and have a great game.”
With Carlen and a stable of other talented backs leading the way, the Horn offense churned out a season high 410-yards on the ground.
Brandon Alexander picked up 58 on 13 carries and Payson Herring had 45 on nine carries.
Due to Payson’s success with the power option rushing attack, quarterback Ridge Halenar only went to the airways seven times. He completed three for 80 yards and a touchdown.
The TD strike, which came with just 16 seconds remaining in the first half, was a 36-yard spiral to Cody York that lifted PHS to a 26-9 halftime lead.
The Horns returned from the locker room with a vengeance scoring 21 points in the third quarter.
In the stanza, PHS scored on Halenar’s one-yard plunge, a fumble recovery and Carlen’s 74-yard run.
In the fourth quarter the Horns tacked on an insurance TD with sophomore Westin Gibson’s 10-yard run. It capped a nicely executed 22-play, 62-yard drive.
The second-year player’s efforts impressed Anderson, “He will more than likely get the chance to start on both offense and defense (Oct. 3 vs. Show Low).”
With the offense clicking likely a finely tuned V-8, the workman like defense - with lunch pail in hand - methodically went about its job.
“We weren’t on the field much on defense because the offense did a good job controlling the ball,” defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes said. “There were not a lot of impressive stats on defense.”
Nick Johnson tied Carlen for most tackles with eight. Matt Wilson had seven and Halenar, playing safety, was credited with six.
“They only scored only one field goal on the starting defense and we did a good job of stopping them after a bad snap gave them good field position,” Hayes said. “I was generally happy with our efforts.”
The relatively easy win caught head Anderson by surprise.
“I thought Bradshaw was going to be a lot better, or we are better than I thought,” he said. “They stayed with us for the first quarter and a half but then the wheels fell off for them and we just kept punishing them until I felt like it was over.”
Around the region
In other action involving East teams, Blue Ridge (5-0) whipped Chino Valley 35-7, Show Low (3-2) beat Bisbee, 58-9, Round Valley (4-1) thumped Williams Field 35-0 and both Snowflake (4-1)