The Payson Longhorns on Friday host Miami, hoping to build on last week’s improvement in a losing cause.
Miami and Payson have identical records, but Miami has managed to accumulate twice as many points in the game.
Despite that lopsided average point score, the Web site Maxpreps ranks the Vandals 152nd in the state and Payson 83rd.
Payson struggled with penalties, turnovers, blunders and stalled scoring drives in the first two games of the season — winning one and losing one. The team straightened out last week in its heartbreak, last-minute loss to Fountain Hills — when the Longhorns had only one penalty.
Hopefully, the return to fundamentals will come in handy against the plucky Vandals, who have scored an average of 25 points a game — double Payson’s 13 points.
The game could turn into a slugging match between two teams without a passing game. The Vandals have averaged 330 yards rushing per game, compared to the Longhorns’ 251. Both teams look impressive on the ground compared to the national average of 187 yards rushing per game — although that mostly reflects the lack of a passing game for either team.
The Longhorns have averaged just 49 yards per game passing, compared to the Vandals’ 36 yards. In the air for the Longhorns, Levi Wilkins has gained an average of 27 yards per game — which puts him behind the Vandals’ leading receiver Shawn Barrowdale’s 40 yards.
On defense, the teams are well matched — each with 50 tackles per game and one sack. Chance Randall has set the pace on defense for the Longhorns with his 12 tackles per game, well ahead of the Vandals’ lead defensive player Nicholas Garcia — with seven tackles per game. Randall has also managed about one quarterback sack per game.
The over-reliance on short, steady gains on the ground should turn the Friday night game into a matchup between Payson’s Aaron Barnes and Miami’s Dustin Hulett — each the runaway lead ground gainer for their respective teams.
Barnes has gained 122 yards per game, but still trails Hulett’s 131 yards per game. Both teams have built their offense around a single on-the-ground wheel horse, with no other players on offense approaching the tally of the team leaders.
On the Longhorns’ side, Levi Wilkins has averaged 27 yards per game and Chance Randall just 12 yards per game — demonstrating the Longhorns’ tendency to keep a core of players on the field for both offense and defense.
The Longhorns enter the contest as favorites, if you go by the state rankings rather than the points on the board.