A sure cure for a three-game losing streak in 3A football is to have the hapless Alchesay Falcons next on the schedule.
And that’s exactly the elixir the Longhorns will be sipping from on Oct. 22 when they take to the Payson High field to host the Falcons.
In Whiteriver, where Alchesay High School is located, basketball reigns supreme and the school doesn’t traditionally field top-notch football teams.
In fact, the Falcons struggle against the rugged East Region schools usually falling by double-digit margins.
Which means, Alchesay represents the break Payson desperately needs after getting soundly thumped, 54-7, on Oct. 15 in Lakeside by the top-ranked and unbeaten Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets.
In two prior games, Payson lost 14-7 to Snowflake and 25-19 to Fountain Hills.
With the loss to Blue Ridge, Payson falls to 4-4 and is in danger of not earning a berth in the postseason playoffs.
PHS coach Byron Quinlan, however, believes the Horns can attain their goal of reaching the state tournament with a few improvements.
“There is still a chance that we can make postseason play but we have to get better over the next two games,” he said.
Against Blue Ridge, the Horns were never in contention trailing 14-0 at the end of the first quarter and 41-0 at halftime.
Payson improved in the second half giving up just 13 points and scoring a fourth quarter TD on Westin Gibson’s 6-yard run.
“Our kids responded well in the second half and didn’t quit,” Quinlan said. “We have a group of kids that aren’t going to give up.”
A thorn in Payson’s side all evening in Lakeside was the play of Blue Ridge running back Chayse Russell who transferred to BRHS this year from Winslow.
Russell scored in the second quarter on an 83-yard run and again in the stanza after, blocking a PHS punt and recovering it in the end zone.
In the fourth quarter, he stamped an exclamation point on the victory scoring on a 54-yard scamper.
The fact that Russell and his fellow starters were still in the game long after the outcome had been decided had some wondering why BRHS coach Paul Moro wouldn’t replace them with reserves in a show of good sportsmanship.
Those questions came on the heels of former PHS coach Jim Beall, now the head coach at Gilbert Higley, being criticized around the state for keeping his starters in late in the game and throwing a late TD pass in a 44-12 win over Scottsdale Coronado.
Even Quinlan seemed a little miffed about Blue Ridge’s tactics saying, “Moro didn’t pull his starters out at all and was still passing.”
In underclass action vs. Blue Ridge on Oct. 14 in Payson, the PHS jayvees lost 26-16 and the Horn freshmen were defeated 20-14.
Kickoff Friday evening against Alchesay is at 7 p.m.