By dropping a 44-14 decision to the River Valley Dust Devils, the Longhorn football team has put itself in a state playoff quandary.
With the loss, which was incurred Oct. 12 in Mohave Valley, Payson falls to 4-4 on the season and most likely will be forced to win the final two regular season games to finish high enough in the power point rankings to earn a berth in the Division IV state tournament set to begin Nov. 3.
The two crucial season-ending showdowns are Oct. 19 vs. Scottsdale Coronado and Oct. 26 vs. Globe.
The good news on the Longhorn gridiron front is that the Horns will have the home-field advantage in both skirmishes and neither opponent is particularly strong.
Globe is 5-3 and Coronado sits 3-5.
Against the Dust Devils, PHS fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter and 17-0 in the second quarter.
With 9:29 remaining in the third, the Devils scored on a screen pass to take a commanding 30-0 lead.
Minutes later, Payson’s starting quarterback Gunner Goodman left the game with an injury and was replaced by Miguel Mendoza.
Lining up behind center was nothing new for Mendoza — he replaced Goodman earlier this year when the senior signal-caller was sidelined with a high ankle sprain.
Mendoza wasted little time in lighting up the scoreboard, hooking up with wide receiver Tyus Sarnowski on a 35-yard pitch and catch off a post-corner route.
Later in the stanza, Mendoza and Sarnowski connected again for a TD — this time on a 10-yard fade.
On the two-point conversion attempt, Mendoza hit Sarnowski on a slant pattern in the end zone to wrap up the game’s scoring.
Among the 32 teams in Division IV power point rankings, Payson is 13th, which is good enough to claim a ducat to the big dance. But losses to Globe and Coronado would leave PHS without a dance card.