Opponents know Tyus Sarnowski is Payson’s top receiver.
But Dean Harpe is trying to make them pay for double-teaming him.
And the Payson junior did just that with three catches for 94 yards in the Longhorns’ 20-7 victory over Glendale on Friday night.
His 60-yard reception from Miguel Mendoza was the longest play of the night for the home team, which improved to 3-1 heading into this week’s homecoming game against unbeaten St. Johns.
The Longhorns needed a win coming off a 28-21 loss at Parker a week earlier. So head coach Jake Swartwood was upbeat after the game.
“A win’s a win,” he said. “I think we saw some really good things from our line tonight. We’ve had two games now with a consistent line. We came out and we moved the ball.
“We might have not rushed like we did last week. The big runs weren’t there. But we ran the ball, had the ball possession. And special teams were solid this week. All-around, it was a good win for us.”
On his big play, Harpe grabbed a short pass, faked a would-be tackler out 9 yards from the line of scrimmage and raced down the left sideline before being caught from behind at the Glendale 9. The long pass play ignited a four-play drive that sophomore Brian Skinner capped with a 3-yard touchdown run to give Payson a 20-0 lead with 5:21 to play in the game.
Harpe’s big catch came on a ball that went off a defender’s fingers.
“The ball got tipped,” he said. “I was kind of worried. And then I made the guy miss. A kid caught me, though. When I was running down the sidelines, I thought touchdown the whole way. And then I turned around and this kid’s chasing me. And I was like, ‘Darn, he’s catching me.’ And then he tackled me and I was mad. But I was still happy.”
He said not being the No. 1 receiver has its advantages.
“It opens me up,” Harpe said. “When they go double-coverage on him, it’s single coverage on me. That happens a lot. He gets safety help over the top and they just leave me with one corner. I’m loving it, because that means when Miguel throws it to me, I’m open.”
Mendoza was 12 of 21 for 235 yards and one touchdown passing. He connected with Sarnowski on a 29-yard scoring strike to break a scoreless tie on the game’s fifth play from scrimmage with 9:49 left in the opening quarter. Sarnowski caught six passes for 111 yards.
The Horns went up 14-0 when Mendoza capped a four-play, 56-yard drive by racing 31 yards over right tackle with 1:15 remaining in the first quarter.
But the Cardinals (1-3) kept PHS off the board again until Skinner’s fourth-quarter plunge.
Glendale answered by driving 44 yards in seven plays as Miguel Zepeda burst through a big hole at left tackle on fourth-and-3 to end the shutout with 1:51 on the clock. Two plays later the Cards recovered a Payson fumble at the Glendale 39 with 1:36 to go, but the Horns’ Bowen Sweeney recovered a fumble three plays later and Mendoza took a knee twice to end it.
The Longhorns weren’t happy about giving up the late score.
“Our defense played excellent,” said left inside linebacker Jake Ames. “We wanted to get the shutout. I was upset.”
But the senior is glad to put the Parker game behind him.
“This is a good win because we’re coming off a loss and we’re just trying to build some momentum going into the St. Johns homecoming. We’re trying to build some confidence.”
Ames also played right tackle, left tackle and left guard on the offensive line. He was pleased with the way the line performed after struggling at times early this season because of inexperience and injury.
“I think the line played excellent,” Ames said. “We held our blocks. We ran the ball, finally. This is one of the better games the offensive line has had.”
Mendoza ran 10 times for 66 yards to pace a PHS rushing attack that netted 148 yards on 37 carries. The Horns had 383 yards of total offense.
Glendale, the largest school in Division IV based on enrollment last October, fell to 1-3. The Cardinals had played in Division III before appealing for a move down for the next two-year block. The Arizona Interscholastic Association approved dropping GHS down because the Cards weren’t competitive playing schools more their size.
Harpe, who gained 12 yards on his only rushing attempt, also made two extra-point kicks and averaged 39 yards on three punts.
Payson’s leading rusher, sophomore Wyatt Chapman, was held to 58 yards on 21 carries.
Payson was flagged nine times for 66 yards. Penalties have been a problem for the Horns this season.
Glendale ran for 136 of its 187 rushing yards in the second half.
LONGHORNS BY THE NUMBERS
PAYSON 20, GLENDALE 7
Glendale 0 0 0 7 — 7
Payson 14 0 0 6 — 20
Payson — Tyus Sarnowski 29 pass from Miguel Mendoza (Dean Harpe kick), 9:49.
Payson — Mendoza 31 run (Harpe kick), 1:15.
Payson — Brian Skinner 3 run (kick blocked), 5:21.
Glendale — Miguel Zepeda 24 run (Yovani Gonzalez 7 kick), 1:51.
First Downs 15 14
Rushes-Yards 40-187 37-148
Comp-Att-Int 6-16-1 12-21-0
Passing Yards 117 235
Total Offense 304 383
Returns-Yards 2-31 2-15
Punts-Avg. 3-26.3 3-39.0
Fumbles-Lost 4-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 3-15 9-66
RUSHING – G: Miguel Zepeda 11-74, Joseph Aldrete 14-58, Cory Russell 6-33, Gabriel Martinez 5-17, Manny Diaz 4-5. P: Miguel Mendoza 10-66, Wyatt Chapman 21-58, Brian Skinner 5-12, Dean Harpe 1-12.
PASSING (comp.-att.-yd.-TD-int.) – G: Aldrete 6-14-117-0-1, Diaz 0-2-0-0-0. P: Mendoza 12-21-235-1-0.
RECEIVING – G: Luis Mejia 4-105, Cedric Hankins 2-12. P: Tyus Sarnowski 6-111, Harpe 3-94, Varner 1-17, Bowen Sweeney 1-16, Team 1-(minus) 3.
RETURNS – G: Kevin Mellein 2-31. P: Sarnowski 1-15, Brigham 1-0.