Elk Express Derails Horn Hopes With 34-6 Pounding In Round Valley

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Dennis Fendler/Roundup

Senior running back/linebacker Nick Johnson (34) will be counted on to lead the Horns against Santa Cruz during homecoming festivities on Sept. 25.

The Round Valley aerial circus lived up to its hype in the Elks’ 34-6 East Region victory over the Payson Longhorns.

During the heated skirmish played Sept. 18 in Eagar-Springerville, Elk signal caller Chantz White turned in his best Kurt Warner imitation, completing 22 of 32 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns.

Although the Horns did intercept Davis twice, he was on target much of the evening, hooking up with Rulon Udall for seven completions and tossing five to Phillip Ulibarri.

Both receivers also had TD receptions.

While White was filling up the airways, the Horns were their own worst enemies.

In fact, the evening turned into a nightmare with Payson committing four turnovers including Nick Johnson’s fumble that was recovered for a TD and a Weston Gibson interception the Elks returned 30 yards for another score.

The lone bright spot for the Horn offense occurred with 10:10 remaining in the game when Gibson threw six yards to Josh Oakley for the Horns’ only TD of the game.

The score capped a 14-play, 37-yard drive.

Josh Frewin’s extra point kick sailed wide right.

In the early going, the Horns (1-3) appeared as if they were going to return to Payson with an all-important East Region victory.

On the Elks’ first possession, Payson intercepted a White pass near the 35-yard line and was in prime position to score the game’s first TD — or at least light up the scoreboard with a Frewin field goal.

But the Longhorns couldn’t muster any type of offense, struggling to a single yard in four plays.

The Elks took over with about eight minutes remaining in the first quarter and marched 65 yards in seven plays for the game’s first TD.

White passed two yards to Ulibarri for the score.

From that point on it was Katie-bar-the-door as the Elks’ offensive machine ground out 296 yards averaging 5.4 yards per play.

Even the whopping nine flags thrown on the the Elks weren’t enough to derail the RV express.

Payson’s offense misfired as if it was a V-8 running on cooking oil. PHS accumulated only 68 yards of total offense, 38 on the ground and 30 through the airways.

The team average of 1.5 yards gained per offensive play is a mark the Horns must improve on if they are to have any chance of defeating Santa Cruz Sept. 25 in a PHS homecoming showdown.

Individually, fullback Nick Johnson rushed 10 times for 33 yards and Brandon Alexander, who returned to the lineup after missing a game due to an injury, carried nine times for 17 yards.

Gibson completed six of 13 passes for 30 yards and a TD. He did, however, throw two interceptions.

Nick Johnson was on the receiving end of three Gibson passes for 14 yards.

Punter Cade DeSpain had an evening to write home about with six punts for 233 yards — an average of 38.8 yards per kick. In those attempts, he had one touchback and dropped another inside the 20-yard line.

Landen Johnson sparkled on special teams returning four kicks for 119 yards with a longest of 36 yards.

Payson might receive a personnel boost this week with the return of running back Payson Herring to the team.

Herring played a big role in last year’s undefeated season and state championship, but moved at the conclusion of the year to the Valley.

PHS defensive coordinator Byron Quinlan said Herring has re-enrolled at PHS and coaches are waiting for his paperwork to clear before he can join the team.

Around the East

With week five of the 2009 season quickly approaching, Snowflake, Show Low and Blue Ridge appear to be replacing Payson as the king of the East beasts.

Show Low and Snowflake are both 4-0 and Blue Ridge is 3-0, but two of those wins have been blowouts of lowly Alchesay.

The Yellow Jackets also whipped Holbrook 57-0.

Games on Sept. 25 will go a long way in determining which of the three teams is indeed the kingpin. Snowflake travels to Blue Ridge and Show Low faces once beaten Round Valley.

The survivor of those two games will emerge as favorites in the chase for East Region honors.

Payson takes a break from East action hosting the South’s Eloy Santa Cruz (2-2) in the homecoming clash to kick off at 7 p.m. Friday.

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