Rivalry Continues Between Cougars, Longhorns

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Dennis Fendler/Roundup

Members of the Payson Longhorn football team burst through a banner before the start of last Friday’s home opener against St. Johns.

A heated rivalry that has its roots in 2006 when Josh Anderson left Chino Valley High School to become the head football coach at Payson continues this evening with the two schools meeting on Longhorn field in a non-region clash. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

During Anderson’s three-year tenure as the Horns’ head coach, which included an undefeated state championship season in 2008, he was forced to deal with some unpleasantness from some in Chino Valley — the school he coached just prior to moving to Payson.

Apparently some there felt he had abandoned the team in favor of the Longhorns and were disgruntled about it.

Anderson openly admitted the coach who replaced him, as well as some others in the town, were bad-mouthing his move to Payson.

When the Longhorns showed up in Chino Valley for a game, students donned inscribed T-shirts that slammed Anderson.

He no longer heads the Payson gridiron program, having moved on to the head coaching position at Dakota State University, but his departure doesn’t mean the Horns and Cougars will be best of buddies when they clash this evening.

In fact, they’ll be battling for bragging rights, power points and playoff berths. Almost as importantly, Longhorns will be out to protect the East reputation as the state’s toughest region when it comes to football.

The Cougars represent the West Region, which is not widely considered as competitive as the East.

The Cougars, however, proved they could play the game last week during a 25-14 win over Camp Verde.

Payson scrimmaged Camp Verde in early season but no score was kept, making it difficult to compare Chino Valley and the Longhorns’ performances against the Cowboys.

The players

Joshua Custodio who was 6-of-14 through the airways against the Cowboys quarterbacks Chino. A pair of his passes went for touchdowns.

Payson’s quarterback Wade Hunsaker also threw for two TDs in last week’s 26-21 win over St. Johns. He, however, had two errant aerials picked off.

Custodio’s favorite target was Kody Rayburn who caught five passes for 40 yards, the longest of which was 16 yards.

Hunsaker’s favorite target appears to be wideout/running back Weston Gibson. Against St. Johns, the two hooked up on a 36-yard scoring strike. Hunsaker also passed 26 yards to Gunner Bauer for a TD.

On the ground, the Cougars received a strong effort from Tanner Scott who rushed for 126 of the team’s 191 yards against Camp Verde.

Scott is successful partly because of the huge line in front of him that are veterans of last season.

The Horns can expect CV to run jet sweeps to the “trips” side. After running a few jet sweeps, they’ll try to catch the Horn “D” napping on dive and bootlegs.

“They should be a much improved team from last year,” said PHS coach Byron Quinlan.

The Longhorns are paced by shifty senior tailback Payson Herring, a three-year letter winner with good speed.

In last week’s win, Herring ran for 133 yards on 13 carries. The Horns also have accomplished ball carriers in fullback Clint Harper and Gibson.

If there are elements in Payson’s game that need to be shored up before tonight’s kickoff it’s eliminating mental miscues and physical mistakes — the bugaboos that hinder most prep teams in the early season.

Against St. Johns, Payson was flagged 13 times for 86 yards, which hampered the team all evening long.

Also, the two interceptions and two fumbles, one of which St. Johns’ recovered just as the Horns appeared to be going in for a score, hurt the Longhorn cause.

Quinlan says his goal during the past practice week was to eliminate those mistakes by stressing gridiron discipline in all the players.

If the Horns can slip past Chino, it will set the stage for next week’s game against Class 4A powerhouse Mingus.

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