An offense purring like a fine-tuned V-8 and a rock solid defense that refused to budge either on the ground or through the airways can be credited for the Longhorns’ 39-6 shellacking of the Chino Valley Cougars.
And once the Horns broke open a tight game in which PHS led just 7-6 expanding it to 26-6 in the first half, Chino seemed to jump ship faster than a JetBlue flight attendant
The game, which was played Sept. 3 in PHS stadium, also served as a showcase for what might be one of the finest one-two offensive punches in the 3A conference now that Jordan Morgan is temporarily out of the picture at Blue Ridge. Morgan — a BR transfer who was 2A Player of the Year last season — has been relegated to the sidelines while AIA officials investigate recruiting charges.
Payson’s wham-bam is supplied by seniors Westin Gibson and Payson Herring. While Herring is the starter at running back and Gibson gets the nod at Z back, Gibson also sees some time at tailback.
With 3:08 remaining in the first half against CV, Gibson broke the game wide open cutting loose on a 63-yard scamper that gave the Horns a 26-6 lead.
In the third quarter, with 3:07 remaining, Gibson returned Dakota Ingro’s punt 38 yards for a TD that upped the PHS lead to 32-6.
For the evening, Gibson rushed six times for a team-high 124 yards. He also had one pass reception for 19 yards.
Herring was equally as effective rushing for 122 yards on 17 carries and scoring three touchdowns.
It was Herring who got the Longhorns off to the races scoring the Horns’ first TD on a 1-yard plunge with 7:15 to go in the opening stanza.
With 10:10 remaining in the second quarter, he capped a nifty seven-play, 75-yard drive scoring on a 26-yard run.
Late in the game, he scored his third touchdown on a 1-yard dive that wrapped up a determined 10-play drive that began at the Horns’ own 6-yard-line.
Those types of drives are not often seen in prep football because they involve error-free, determined play for a lengthy period of playing time.
Defensively, the Horns allowed the Cougars’ Tanner Scott to rack up 111 of the team’s 188 yards rushing and score a TD. But the bend don’t break mentality of the “D” coupled with two Chino turnovers kept the Cats out of the end zone most of the evening.
In fact, Chino averaged just 3.1 yards per play picking up just 163 yards of total offense.
Entering the game, scouting reports seemed to indicate Chino had a decent passing attack but quarterback Joshua Custodio completed only 1-of-9 passes and that was for a minuscule 8 yards.
While the game results were mostly positive, there were two facets of the game the Horns must clean up before they proceed — turnovers and penalties. The Horns committed three turnovers and were flagged eight times for 69 yards by White Hat Tim Fruth’s officiating crew.
Those types of miscues will certainly have coach Byron Quinlan and his staff looking for remedies throughout the practice week.
With the win over CV in the rearview mirror and the Horns sporting a 2-0 record, the team now faces a Murder’s Row schedule that would make Vince Lombardi cringe.
In the remainder of the season, the Horns face Mingus, Fountain Hills, Blue Ridge and Show Low.
Mingus is the 4A II No. 2 ranked team, Blue Ridge is rated No. 1 in the 3A conference and Show Low and Fountain Hills are top-five ranked.
Buckle up fans; it’s going to be a wild and wooly gridiron ride.