The Payson Longhorns take their unblemished 2-0 record to Mingus this evening, Sept. 10, to take on a much-heralded Marauder team fresh off a 40-6 pasting of Prescott and clutching a No. 2 ranking in the 4A II conference.
The challenge of taking on the Marauders is huge, but Longhorn coach Byron Quinlan is confident his Horns will play well against their “big school” foes.
“Our goal is to sneak in there and get a win and get out,” he said.
That will be a tough chore because the Marauders sport a 90-player roster filled with experienced juniors and seniors led by quarterback Nick Alred, a 6-foot, 190-pound senior.
In the win over Prescott, Alred was effective on the ground rushing nine times for 54 yards including one 15-yard gainer.
Running back Kevin Webb, a 5-foot-8-inch, 170-pound senior did the most damage against the Badgers, picking up 103 yards including one 85-yard run.
Through the airways, Alred was six for 11 for 91 yards.
Up front for Mingus, no one will be asking, “Where’s the beef?”
It’s obviously on the line where the Marauders have a 6-4, 300-pounder, two players who tip the scales at 260 pounds and another pair that weigh in at 250.
Also on the roster are linemen weighing 240, 225 and 220 pounds making Mingus one of the biggest teams in the 4A conference.
If Mingus has a weakness it might be the same one that has trouble the Horns — turnovers.
Mingus fumbled twice in the win vs. Prescott, losing both.
Payson’s miscues have been through the airways as quarterback Wade Hunsaker has thrown three interceptions in two games.
Payson will also be out to eliminate the penalties. In last week’s 39-6 win over Chino Valley, the team was flagged eight times for 69 yards. Three of those penalties gave Chino first downs — a stat that frustrates coaches.
The Longhorns will counter Mingus with a strong ground game led by Westin Gibson and Payson Herring.
Herring has racked up 273 yards in 30 carries averaging 9.10 yards per carry.
Gibson, who plays mainly Z back, has had only 12 carries but has 160 yards. Much of his total came on a 63-yard run in last week’s win over Chino Valley.
Fullback Clint Harper runs where the going gets tough, in the A and B gaps between the tackles, and has picked up 96 yards on 17 carries.
When the Horns have gone to the airways, Hunsaker has experienced some success completing nine of 24 attempts for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
His favorite target has been Gibson, but he’s also thrown to Cameron Geske, Gunner Bauer and Ryan Rislund.
Defensively, the Longhorns are led by Harper who leads the team in total tackles with 20, nine of which were unassisted.
Cale Novack has 14 tackles and Bauer has been credited with 13.
If the Horns can pull off a win tonight in Mingus, it would be a huge feather in their caps, plus give some bragging rights to the East Region because Mingus has long fielded polished and fundamentally sound teams, well coached by Bob Young and his staff.
Mingus is widely considered to have one of the best football programs in the 4A ranks.
At the onset of the season, some of the PHS players said they felt they were being underestimated and overlooked by the rankings.
This evening in Mingus, they’ll have the chance to prove the soothsayers wrong.