Luckily for the Longhorns, Miguel Mendoza and Tyus Sarnowski have a connection.
The Payson High seniors have been throwing and catching for years. They’ve played on the same sports teams since their Little League Baseball days: Mendoza pitches to Sarnowski on the varsity baseball team.
Ditto on the football field, where Mendoza’s passes to Sarnowski have driven the Longhorns’ explosive offense early this season. Mendoza has thrown seven touchdown passes in the Horns’ two games. Sarnowski has snagged five of those.
The friends connected for four TD passes — 72, 27, 15 and 42 yards — in Payson’s 42-10 rout at Page last week.
“He catches everything,” Mendoza said of Sarnowski. “We mesh well. I know exactly where to put it for him and he knows exactly where to go.”
The two could have produced more TD passes, but the Longhorns stopped throwing downfield in the fourth quarter of the blowout victory. The 6-foot-1, 160-pound Sarnowski, for one, seems to envision even bigger production ahead.
“Hopefully it gets better as the season goes,” he said.
Sarnowski said there’s no doubt that the friends are reaping the benefits of playing both football and baseball together for so long.
“We’ve meshed very well our whole lives,” he said. “We’ve grown up playing Little League, playing Pee Wee Football together. So that’s always been there. Hopefully, it’ll get better from here on out.”
Head coach Jake Swartwood said the chemistry the two have on the field has fueled their success.
“They’ve got a connection that’s second to none
on our team,” the coach said. “They’ve just got a sixth sense between the two of them. Tyus knows what Miguel’s looking at. Miguel knows what Tyus is looking at. One of those (TDs against Page) was an audible they called between themselves. Sometimes it’s good to have players out there who can act as coaches and both of those kids can do that for us on both sides of the ball.”
Sarnowski also plays free safety on defense. As quarterback, Mendoza doesn’t start on defense.
Mendoza (5-9, 165) also ran for a pair of 10-yard touchdowns against the Sand Devils. He has developed into a strong senior leader for the Longhorns after gaining valuable experience starting a handful of games last year as the backup quarterback.
Swartwood said Mendoza’s quick thinking effectively puts another coach on the field.
“We ran the option more than we usually do (against Page),” the coach said. “He was seeing some things out there on the defense that we weren’t able to see. We give him the ability to change the call at the line if he needs to. He’s an extension of us on the field. It’s great to have a quarterback who’s smart enough and understands the system enough and understands the defensive system enough to be able to change the calls and put them into situations that are touchdown-scoring plays.
“He had six total touchdowns between his passing and his running. Two of those were straight his calls. It was him looking at the defense, changing the play on the field and running the ball in. That’s pretty impressive for a kid who’s a senior in high school.”