Payson High School football coach Jake Swartwood hints there could be changes in the Longhorn offense and defense when players charge onto the River Valley High School field this evening, Oct. 12, to take on the Dust Devils.
The coach indicated following last week’s humbling 54-0 loss to Mingus, that he would possibly pare down and simplify some of the team’s spread option offense in hopes the players can better master fewer techniques.
He also was contemplating running a more basic and traditional defense rather than some of the more complex schemes the team has used during the season.
Player personnel and position changes might also occur.
Most notable would be playing 5-foot-5-inch, 145-pound sophomore Trevor Anderson at defensive nose guard.
Yes, that’s nose guard — usually the spot reserved for 250-plus-pounders impossible to root out.
As small as Anderson is, he proved to be a force at nose guard in the loss to Mingus. After entering the game as a reserve, he finished with two sacks and seven tackles prompting Swartwood to sing his praises.
Playing big, however, is nothing new in his family. His father, Eric, was an all region offensive guard on Payson High’s 1986 state runner-up team and 1987 A West champions.
At a tad over 150 pounds he was outweighed by almost every single foe, but managed to succeed using technique and determination.
When not playing guard, he was lined up at cornerback, which might be the two most unusual offensive and defensive positions ever held down by a single player.
In addition to having Anderson anchoring the defensive line, the Horns will unleash senior R. J. Cox, a running back and corner back, on the Dust Devils.
Quarterbacks Tyus Sarnowski, Gunner Goodman and Miguel Mendoza, running back/linebacker Sam Boatman and guard/linebacker Kyle Brown are also being counted on to contribute in River Valley.
The Dust Devils enter the game on a three-game winning streak and clutching a 3-2 record with losses to Dixie, Utah and Yuma Catholic.
The Dust Devils are struggling to reach the postseason, just as the 4-3 Longhorns are.
In Payson’s 27-7 loss to River Valley last season, then-freshman running back Brandon Long and quarterback Derek Advocate turned in big games for the Dust Devils. The two return this season and once again are having good years.
Advocate, known as both a decent runner and passer, has completed 43 of 81 passes for 927 yards and has rushed for 327 yards on 63 carries.
Through the airways, he has been intercepted only twice while throwing seven TD passes.
To have a chance at victory, the Payson defense must find a way to corral his running and passing.
Long, an undersized running back with elusive moves is averaging whopping 6.66 yards per carry with a longest of 84. He is also the Dust Devils’ go-to player in the red zone having scored a team-high nine TDs.
Last season vs. Payson, Long enjoyed a banner day rushing for a team-high 126 yards on 15 carries to lead a potent attack that ground out 376 yards on the evening.
The outcome of tonight’s game is crucial to Longhorn playoff hopes. If PHS wins, it could be the start of a three-game, season-ending winning streak, which would culminate with a 7-3 record. That mark would earn the Horns a decent seed into the D-IV state tournament, which has been a team goal all season long.