Showing a spark that might have been missing early in the season, the Payson Longhorns evened their 2011 record to 2-2 by romping over the hapless Miami Vandals, 48-11.
In the clash, which was played Sept. 16 in Longhorn Stadium, Payson jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on tailback Aaron Barnes’ 75-yard sweep of the right side and on an option play from quarterback Gunner Goodman to Kyle Racke.
Most importantly for the Horns in the win is that they might finally have found their passing attack after being a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of dust team throughout the season’s first three games.
Through the airways, tight end Cale Novack hauled in a TD pass on a corner route and Josh Oakey was on the receiving end of a fade route that went for a TD.
The emergence of the passing game coupled with standout runs by Barnes and his fellow backs, lifted the Horns to a 35-0 halftime lead and prompted coach Byron Quinlan to empty his bench early in the third quarter and throughout the fourth.
R.J. Cox-Robinson was among those reserves that shined with the increased playing time scoring late in the game on about a 75-yard run.
For the game, Quinlan opted to go with a sometimes-controversial strategy of switching quarterbacks every few plays.
During certain pre-called plays, Levi Wilkins was under center and at other times, Goodman was calling signals.
The ploy seemed to work as Quinlan says both turned in stellar games and helped jump-start an aerial attack that was AWOL.
“Both got the ball in the air and managed to hit the receivers when they were open,” Quinlan said.
Among those protecting the two QBs was center Ty Davis who Quinlan praised for anchoring the offensive line.
Defensively, the coach praised linebackers Clint Harper and Chance Randall for their rock solid play.
“Harper was in on a couple of quarterback sacks,” said Quinlan.
With Payson’s win there are now nine Division IV teams with .500 records.
A field of five teams, including Blue Ridge, Buckeye, Winslow, Seton Catholic and Coolidge, are 4-0.
The biggest upset in D-IV on Friday afternoon was the defending state champion Show Low Cougars’ 28-15 loss to the Snowflake Lobos.
The effect that defeat could have on the Cats will be uncovered during the Payson vs. SL clash on Sept. 23 in Show Low.
Common thinking is the loss could have the Cougars rip-roaring mad and ready to strike out against Payson or it might play on their psyche wondering if this year’s team is as good as the one that last season took home all the marbles.
Kickoff Friday is at 7 p.m.