The Mingus Marauders are a deep, talented and well-coached team that could easily win the 4A II state championship.
That fact of gridiron life turned evident Sept. 10 in Cottonwood where the Marauders broke open a tight game in the fourth quarter, ambushing the Payson Longhorns 33-12.
After falling behind 19-6 at halftime, the Horns (2-1) rallied with a third quarter TD to make the score 19-12 and sparked hope the team might pull off a come-from-behind victory to remain unbeaten.
But coach Bob Young’s Marauders scored two fourth-quarter TDs to salt the game away and improve to a 2-0 record.
The demise of Payson can be attributed to the defense’s inability to slow a very good Mingus ground game that churned out 312 yards, of which 123 came from Juan Gonzales on 15 carries.
In fact, the ground game was so effective, quarterback Nick Alred went to the airways only four times, completing three.
The Horns’ hopes were particularly damaged by lackluster special teams play, in which three punts and two kicks were blocked.
One of the blocked punts was returned for a TD.
Getting ready for Round Valley
This practice week, the immediate task for the Longhorns is to put the loss in the rear view mirror and concentrate on the Round Valley Elks.
The Bugle Boys visit Payson Sept. 17 for a game that is much more than the traditional homecoming showdown.
Both RV and Payson are members of the 3A East and it’s important to both that they get off to a winning start in the regional title chase and pursuit of a state playoff berth.
Round Valley will arrive in Payson fresh off one of the most thrilling wins of the prep football season.
Last Friday, the state fourth-ranked Elks edged third-ranked Florence 36-35 after trailing 35-28 with 2:33 remaining.
The Elks went on a 60-yard, 10-play drive to pull within 35-34. On the ensuing conversion, the Elks’ try for a two-point pass was good, giving RV a pulsating upset.
Kickoff vs. RV is 7 p.m.