There are fans and boosters who remain certain the Payson Longhorn football team (1-0) will run roughshod over Camp Verde (0-1) this evening, partly because the Cowboys were totally overwhelmed, 54-0, last week in a season opener against Scottsdale Desert Christian.
But coach Jake Swartwood is not one of those predicting the Horns will impose their will.
“They are not that bad of a team,” he said. “They had a lot of turnovers and Scottsdale Christian is very good.”
The coach also harbors health concerns about tonight’s game because several of his linemen are banged up and missed practices this week.
“We hope we get them back, but we don’t know,” said Swartwood at midweek. “All we can do is hope the second-team players step up.”
After scouring scouting reports, Swartwood says CV runs an offense very similar to Payson’s spread option and has a goodsized line buoyed by several 200-plus-pounders including Elmer Ruiz, Brandon Hackett and Conner Zale.
The Cowboys also have a good-sized player in signal-caller Kyle Lobaugh. The 6-foot, 1-inch, 200-pounder is being hailed as the team’s most well rounded player.
Last season in Camp Verde’s 36-6 win over Payson, Lobaugh was a one-man wrecking crew, playing linebacker, defensive end, kicker, punter and quarterback.
In addition to Lobaugh being stationed in the backfield, the Cowboys are expected to start Doug Ashley (5 feet, 8 inches, 150 pounds) at tailback and Josh Loza (5 feet, 10 inches, 175 pounds) at fullback. Tyler Dickey (5 feet, 10 inches, 175 pounds) will also play in the backfield.
In countering CV, Swartwood is counting on rock-solid play from Payson’s offensive line anchored by Kyle Brown, Anselmo Vasquez, Jack Boatman and Conner Anderson.
Also, Tanner Savage — a standout on last year’s team — could be moved to the line from fullback to help bolster those in the trenches.
The “O” linemen could also see action on defense this evening.
In the backfield, Gunner Goodman — who last week might have played the finest game of his career in a 52-28 win over Chino Valley — will again be pulling the trigger on the offense.
Swartwood said after watching game films, he was impressed with Goodman’s decisionmaking, especially in the passing game.
When Goodman is not throwing the ball, he’ll be handing off to running backs Sam Boatman and R.J. Cox.
While official stats from the Chino Valley vs. Payson game were not available at press time, both players turned in stellar performances that impressed both fans and boosters.
Swartwood has not tipped his hand on what defense he will play this evening, but the Horns practiced a 4-3 most of pre-season but switched to a 5-3 vs. Chino Valley in an attempt to contain the Cougars’ Wing-T.
While the Longhorns were barely mentioned in pre-season polls, the win over Chino boosted them to No. 10 in the Division IV poll.
To hold on to the ranking, the Horns must muster a victory today and improve to 2-0.