The Longhorns won’t be doing the lock step in the two-step at Arizona’s high school version of the “Big Dance,” but Payson did wrap up the season with a 27-7 win over the homestanding Globe Tigers.
With a 4-6 record, a tally of 29.9272 power points and a No. 20 ranking of 31 teams, the Horns came up short of being one of the top 16 schools to advance to the Division IV state tournament set to begin Nov. 4 at the home site of the higher seed.
Payson remained in contention for a state berth until Oct. 21 when a heartbreaking 20-0 loss to Scottsdale Coronado all but ruined Longhorn hopes for a ducat to boogie.
Payson was hoping for one of tournament’s four at-large seeds doled on power points, but they eventually went to No. 16 Coolidge, No. 15 Window Rock, No. 14 Mingus and No. 13 Chinle.
A fitting tribute to just how competitive the now defunct Class 3A East region was during past years surfaced when a trio of former East teams claimed the top three state seeds.
Blue Ridge received No. 1, Snowflake was No. 2 and Show Low played to No. 3.
Seton Catholic, a 4A team before this year’s AIA reconfiguration from conferences/regions to divisions/sections, received the No. 4 seed.
Among the teams to join Payson as a state non-qualifier were Coronado (5-5), Page (4-6), Ganado (5-5) and Alchesay (4-6).
Second-year PHS coach Byron Quinlan is calling the Oct. 28 win over Globe, “An emotional win for the seniors.
“I am proud of the improvements the class made from their freshman year to now.”
As freshmen, the group won just one game.
“They worked hard in the weight room and dedicated a lot of time in the off-season to improve,” Quinlan said. “Unfortunately, they had to face a season plagued with injuries.”
The coach then pinpointed a reason for Longhorn football struggles that keeps tongues wagging in Payson stores, watering holes and barber shops: “This group has had three varsity head coaches in four years.”
In the win over the Tigers, Payson jumped out to a 14-0 halftime lead and expanded it to 20-0 before Globe closed to 20-7.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Horns erased all doubts, scoring an insurance TD.
Individually, senior tailback Aaron Barnes, who transferred to PHS this school year from the Midwest, was a one-man wrecking crew, rushing for 121 yards on 18 carries and hauling in two receptions for 83 yards.
One of the catches, on a screen play, went for 70 yards and a touchdown.
The electrifying Barnes scored another TD on an 11-yard scamper.
“Aaron added the spark our team need to go out on top,” Quinlan said. “He left everything on the field.”
Sophomore signal caller Tyus Sarnowski put together what the coach is calling “one of his better games of the year throwing the ball” completing five of nine passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns.
Tight end Cale Novack was on the receiving end of 45- and 65-yard TD aerials.
Defensively, Quinlan praised Jake Swartwood, the team coordinator, for “putting together a great game plan that limited Globe’s offense.”
The Tigers scored their lone TD on a Payson snafu.
With the defense in a cover three scheme and the Globe QB scrambling for his life, a defender blew his assignment, allowing the Tigers to score.
“Otherwise, Globe was shut down by (linebacker) Chance Randall, who had a team-high 16 tackles,” said Quinlan.
Fellow linebacker Clint Harper was in on seven tackles and was one of three Horn bandits to pilfer errant enemy aerials. Josh Oakley and Michael Costello also had picks. Cade DeSpain and Kyle Raecke were credited with seven tackles each.
Garrett Geske was in on six tackles from his defensive tackle position.