In a route of Page on Friday, the Payson Longhorns went airborne.
The second win of a so-far undefeated season perfected the second prong of the offense, after relying mostly on the running game in the season-opening football win over Wickenburg two weeks ago.
On Friday night, quarterback Miguel Mendoza connected with Tyus Sarnowski on four touchdown passes as PHS rolled to a 42-10 win at Page. Mendoza also ran for a pair of touchdowns as the Horns improved to 2-0 heading into this week’s game at Parker.
“Their goal was to stop our run,” Payson head coach Jake Swartwood said of the Sand Devils. “They knew that we were one play away at any moment to break for a touchdown and that was their goal to stop that. And they were effective in that and kind of forced us to see if we could throw the ball.
“If there was any doubt about that, we kind of answered that question with Miguel throwing four touchdowns to Tyus Sarnowski. I think Tyus ended up having about 172 yards on six catches. So, I don’t think we’re going to see many more people stuff eight in the box against us and force us to throw the ball against them. We shall see though.”
Swartwood said Sarnowski isn’t the Horns’ only receiving option.
“Tyus stood out in our receiving corps, but we’ve got William Youngberg and Jared Varner who are just as capable as Tyus to go off any night for four touchdowns,” Swartwood said.
Although PHS made the most of its yardage against Wickenburg on the ground with Wyatt Chapman running for 170 yards, Mendoza also had three TD passes against the Wranglers. Page employed the same defensive strategy that Wickenburg used a week earlier.
“We had exactly what we thought we were going to get,” Swartwood said.
“We’ve got eight to nine men in the box all the time. And they were playing pretty much cover three behind it, seeing if we were able to throw the ball.”
In addition to establishing its ability to pass the ball, PHS also improved in all the areas it struggled in against Wickenburg. After losing three of four fumbles the previous week, the Horns had just one fumble, which they lost.
They were 0-for-4 on extra-point attempts in week one. They were 6-for-6 at Page.
They also cut down on their penalties.
Injuries to the top two centers forced Payson to start a freshman at center in this game.
“He stepped up tremendously for us,” Swartwood said. “He did very well. We had just one fumble in the first quarter that was a busted snap between him and Miguel. And then they took care of that. They got some snaps in on the sideline. We didn’t have anything else the rest of the night. So there was a drastic drop in the turnovers. We minimized our penalties this game and we took care of our special teams’ flaws. It’s a step in the right direction for us.”
Despite all the positive aspects to the game, the Longhorns did suffer more injuries to the offensive line. Starting right tackle and defensive end Steve Perry left the game after the first quarter. His brother, Chris, had a hip injury that forced him to the sideline in the second quarter, as well.
“We had some key injuries again this week,” Swartwood said. “We really went into this game with only two linemen who’ve ever played varsity minutes before, which is pretty terrifying for an offensive coordinator and a head coach.
“But the boys were able to step up in the situations that we needed them to and were able to hang the points on the board for us.”