The morning after avenging their only loss of the season, the Longhorns faced another of their biggest rivals.

The Show Low Invitational featured some big challenges.

Payson’s boys soccer team passed one.

And came up short in the other.

After handing Snowflake its first loss by a 3-2 score in its second game on Friday, Sept. 17, the Longhorns faced two-time defending state champion Blue Ridge on Saturday morning, Sept. 18.

The Yellow Jackets won 2-0. It was the first meeting between the teams since Payson gave Blue Ridge its closest game in the state tournament in a 1-0 heartbreaking defeat.

The Longhorns return all but one starter from that team, so the players wanted nothing more than to avenge that loss, as well.

But it didn’t work out.

If they face the Jackets again this year, it’ll be in the 2A state tournament.

They’ll have to find a way to score, a problem they also had in the 1-0 loss to Snowflake in Payson.

Payson opened the Show Low Invitational by tying the host Cougars 2-2 on Friday morning.

They closed the tournament on Saturday afternoon with a 6-0 win over St. Johns (0-4).

“We played well in the tournament,” said Payson coach Billy Spalding. “A few of our boys got banged up in the first game against Show Low, so the win against Snowflake was especially encouraging in another pretty physical game.

“Blue Ridge came out and scored two pretty quickly, but we played them well the rest of the game. St. Johns was not a bad team, but had only one sub and had already played several games by the time we played them.”

Tournament games aren’t used to compile the Arizona Interscholastic Association rankings, which were to be released on Thursday, Sept. 23.

Payson 2, Northland 0

Payson improved to 4-1 with a 2-0 victory at Flagstaff Northland Prep (2-1) on Tuesday, Sept. 21. Esgar Reyes scored both goals.

“It was a tough game, more physical than expected, and our boys seemed to have been affected by the altitude a bit, so it was a good hard-fought win,” Spalding said.

More challenges ahead

The Longhorns were scheduled to play at Holbrook (1-3) at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 23 in a rematch of a game Payson won 8-2 at home in the Sept. 1 season opener.

Then the challenges return.

Payson gets an 11-day break heading into a home game against Camp Verde (4-1-1) at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 5. Camp Verde lost 3-2 to Blue Ridge and tied Chino Valley 1-1.

They then get nine days without a game before hosting Chino Valley (3-0-1) at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 15. The Cougars have lost to Blue Ridge in the last two state championship games. Chino Valley beat Blue Ridge 1-0 at home on Sept. 11 before tying Camp Verde 10 days later.

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