The Payson Longhorn football team rallied back from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit Friday evening in Camp Verde to rout the homestanding Cowboys 41-21.
But the winning rally didn’t occur until the second half as the Horns trailed 14-7 at halftime and appeared on the verge of suffering their first defeat of the season.
Fueled by quarterback Gunner Goodman and running backs RJ Cox and Sam Boatman, Payson mounted the mother of all rallies, scoring 14 third-quarter points and 20 more in the fourth stanza to breeze to a victory that earlier had appeared unlikely.
So, what happened at halftime to fire the Longhorns up?
“Nothing really,” said first-year coach Jake Swartwood. “We just tried to build a fire in them, get them more motivated.”
The offensive strategy on the line, however, did change a bit as Swartwood and fellow coaches shored up a weakness they noticed in the first half.
“They were killing us in the B gaps (between guard and tackle), so we made some adjustments that worked,” said Swartwood.
Payson jump-started its rally early in the third quarter after Boatman had broken loose on a 65-yard run to Camp Verde’s 4-yard line.
From there, Cox took a pitch from Goodman and scored to pull the Horns within 14-7.
In all, Cox led the Horns in scoring with three touchdown runs.
Payson tied up the game 14-14 with 11:11 remaining in the third quarter on Goodman’s 52-yard run and Dean Harp’s successful conversion kick.
The Horns continued the offensive onslaught, taking 21-14, 28-14, 28-21, 34-21 and 40-21 leads before coasting to the win.
Following the game, Swartwood lauded offensive tackle Conner Anderson and Goodman for their stellar play.
“Conner worked hard in the practice week on the (blocking) sled chopping his steps (footwork) and really improved,” Swartwood said. “I think Gunner was even better than last week.”
That’s a lofty appraisal coming from the coach because last week, after Payson beat Chino Valley 52-28, Swartwood said Goodman “played the best game of his career.”
With the win over the Cowboys, Payson improves to 2-0 and has moved up to eighth place in the Division IV football rankings.
Next up, the Horns host Fountain Hills Sept 7. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
In other D-IV games on Aug. 31, Blue Ridge humbled Page 57-7, Show Low beat Florence 58-0, Buckeye romped past Sierra Linda 57-7 and Seton Catholic thumped Coronado 49-8.