A 22-point third quarter salvo propelled the Payson Longhorns (3-3) to a convincing 42-7 homecoming win over visiting Sedona Red Rock.
On Friday evening, Sept. 30, in PHS Stadium, the two teams fought on relatively even terms in the first half before Payson rode a re-energized defensive effort to the victory.
At halftime, with Payson clinging to a precarious 13-7 lead, coach Byron Quinlan and defensive coordinator Jake Swartwood were obviously upset with the defensive effort being put forth.
So, the two challenged the players during the midway break to step up their efforts and put the clamps on Sedona’s offense, led all evening by quarterback Jack Johnson. As the coaches planned, the players reacted, holding Sedona scoreless in the second half.
“We sort of ripped into them and the kids responded,” said Quinlan.
Among those to step up were linebackers Clint Harper and Chance Randall.
Harper finished with 16 tackles and Randall, from his Mike linebacker slot, had 14 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
“Both did a great job for us,” Quinlan said.
The coach expects both to be ranked among Division IV’s top defenders when stats are released later this week.
Quinlan also cited nose guard Cody Crisp for his efforts in limiting the Sedona offense to just 84 yards rushing.
Crisp and his fellow bandits also held Sedona’s air game to just three receptions for 51 yards.
Throughout the game, Swartwood kept the Horns in a base 4-3 defense despite the fact the team has shown a 3-5 in earlier games that, for the most part, was effective.
“We wanted four (players) on the line (of scrimmage) to keep their running game in check,” said Quinlan
The coach attributed the success of the defense to some adjustments made at halftime and to a renewed commitment from the players.
Among the adjustments was playing Tanner Savage, normally a linebacker, at defensive tackle.
Offensively, the Horns coaching staff moved quarterback Gunner Goodman to tailback and he responded with a big time performance picking up 125 yards on 10 carries that included a 79-yard scoring run in the second half off a sweep play.
“The kid can run and he’s so coachable,” said Quinlan.
Also at tailback, Aaron Barnes — the starter most of the season — ran for 100-plus yards.
At quarterback, sophomore Tyus Sarnowski replaced Goodman and “did a good job managing the game,” Quinlan said.
In engineering the power offense, Sarnowski threw his first varsity touchdown pass — a 15-yard completion on a flood play to senior wide receiver Josh Oakley.
“Josh made a nice catch,” said Quinlan.
While some of the credit for the win goes to the wide receivers, running backs and quarterback, the linemen also made huge contributions especially Savage, who just returned to the lineup after being sidelined with an injury.
Savage, a team captain, started at guard and along with Jake Hacker and William Youngberg, helped Payson control the line of scrimmage throughout the game, especially in the second half.
“It was nice having Tanner back,” said Quinlan
With the win, the Horns are now clinging to the No. 15 spot in the AIA power point rankings just .01 of a point behind No. 14 Mingus, an opponent Payson plays Oct. 7 in Longhorn Stadium.
Mingus was beaten 47-26 on Sept. 30 by Flagstaff Coconino.
Power points will be one of the methods used to seed 16 teams into the D-IV or “state tournament” when it begins Nov. 5. Currently, Blue Ridge is top-rated in power points with 28.5836 and a 6-0 record. In other D-IV games around the state, Snowflake muzzled Winslow 38-0, Blue Ridge stung St. Johns 48-0, Alchesay slipped past Miami 14-8, Show Low clawed Holbrook 51-8, and Fountain Hills soared over Coronado 33-6.