Losing is tough to absorb in high school football, but the Longhorns (3-6) are doing their best to shake off the gut-wrenching disappointment of a 21-0 loss to Scottsdale Coronado.
“Being on the losing end Friday night (Oct. 21 in Scottsdale) was disheartening to a lot of our players and staff,” head coach Byron Quinlan said. “Especially after all the hard work that has been put in behind the scenes.”
The defeat, however, did not diminish Quinlan’s confidence in his players.
“We can be a great team when we work as a unit and eliminate penalties.”
Quinlan was buoyed prior to kickoff by what he considered a good week of practice and a well-designed strategy to shut down the Dons’ ground attack by putting eight defenders “in the box,” or close to the line of scrimmage.
But as John Steinbeck penned in a 1937 novel, “The best laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry.”
Quinlan now closely relates to what the Noble prize-winning author was writing. “We got caught going upfield too far, opening the running lanes, which they exposed.”
One of those defensive breakdowns was the inability to corral Grant Camacho on a 15-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that broke a scoreless dead lock.
Camacho was a thorn in Payson’s side all evening long, finishing with a game-high 121 yards on 19 carries.
Although Coronado often picked up good-sized chunks of yardage as the Dons’ ground machine rolled, the score remained 7-0 until the fourth quarter when Anthon Hantzche hauled in a 25-yard TD pass from Reid Blakey.
Later in the quarter, Blakey’s one-yard scoring run was icing on the Coronado victory cake.
For the game, Payson’s defense held Blakey to minus-28 yards rushing, but he did complete 4-of-6 passes for a TD. He was intercepted once.
Offensively for Payson, the Horns didn’t have many opportunities to score, mostly because of Coronado’s ball-control offense and their own mistakes.
“We seemed to have too many turnovers to overcome in one of the fastest games I’ve been a part of,” Quinlan said. “We had some decent runs negated by holding penalties and we never seemed to get into sync because of downs and distances.”
The Payson cause was also hampered throughout the game by the loss of tailback/linebacker Cade Despain who was out with the flu.
“That seemed to be a microcosm of our season — we just never seemed to be at full strength with the early injuries to key players including Chemo Vasquez and Tanner Savage,” said Quinlan.
The team did, however, receive solid efforts from linebackers Clint Harper and Aaron Barnes.
“Both have huge hearts and played with desire and passion,” said Quinlan.
The coach also singled out linemen Cody Crisp for “battling until the final whistle blew” and Levi Sopeland for “his efforts to make adjustments up front without linemen.”
Next up for the Horns is a season-ending clash on Oct. 28 at Globe.
Quinlan believes the players are looking forward to the challenge, “We have a lot of seniors on our team that have a lot of pride and want to go out as winners.”
Other Division IV results
Cortez 34, Westwind Prep 28
Blue Ridge 10, Show Low 9
Snowflake 32, Mingus 29
Desert Edge 20, Buckeye 7
River Valley 47, Chino Valley 9
Coolidge 41, Maricopa 40
Winslow 60, Monument Valley 12
Empire 35, Palo Verde 20
Seton Catholic 49, Tempe 14
Parker 34, Youngker 30
Apache Junction 44, Combs 22
Agua Fria 35, Estrella Foothills 7
Pinon 24, Ganado 20
Safford 41, Globe 28
Window Rock 55, Hopi 6
Florence 28, Miami 0
Wickenburg 28, Mohave 14
Page 67, Tuba City 8
St. Johns 42, Alchesay 7
Chinle 15, Holbrook 12
Vista Grande 43, Rio Rico 13