Payson entered Friday’s football game at Scottsdale Coronado needing three things to happen to make the state playoffs.
They had to win, have Arizona College Prep beat Valley Christian (VC) and then knock off VC in Payson this week.
The first two things did happen so the Longhorns host VC (4-1 overall, 0-1 3A Metro East) at 7 p.m. Friday with a chance to wrap up a state tournament berth.
A loss means they’re likely out of the playoffs.
But they’ll roll into the showdown for second place in the 3A Metro East Region riding a two-game winning streak and a wave of confidence.
The Longhorns (2-3, 2-1 region) rolled over Coronado 79-0 for their second consecutive win while ACP was beating VC 7-0 to wrap up the 3A Metro East title. It ranks as one of the highest scoring games and most lopsided victories in PHS history, although complete records aren’t available. It’s the most points Payson has scored dating back to the 2004 season at least.
“It feels amazing,” said quarterback Trevor Cline. “I’m just excited for practice (Saturday). We’re going to wake up super early, work on film for Valley Christian and prepare for the next game.”
The top two teams in each of the six regions earn automatic state playoff berths this season, with the other four spots in the 16-team tournament going to the top four teams in the rankings who didn’t finish first or second.
Cline ran for three touchdowns (11, 14 and 31 yards) and threw for two others to Devonte Johnson and Zach Lutdke before coach Byran Burke took out as many starters as he could in the second half of a 49-0 game.
“It’s fun to be on the right side of those,” Burke said. “We got as many backups as possible on the field. They executed and played hard.”
Travis Christianson added a first quarter touchdown run and Dominic Visser scooped up a Dons fumble and rumbled about 35 yards into the end zone to wrap up the first half scoring.
Dexter Waterman took over under center in the second half and ran for a touchdown and also returned an interception for another score. Ayden Ormand and Caleb Marinelli added touchdown runs. Hunter Stanfield recorded a safety.
Kicker Mike Dominguez didn’t travel with the team so he could play in the final home game for the boys soccer team. Then Connor Hatch caught a conversion pass from Cline after the first TD and Bladimir Benitez scored on a two-point run after the second score. Benitez then went 7-for-9 kicking extra points.
Payson lost two fumbles but won the turnover battle 4-2. Hatch and Cline also had interceptions.
Payson was penalized seven times for 70 yards and Coronado six times for 58 yards.
Center Zach Cancasci and right guard Jimmy Johnson left the game with injuries. It’s unclear if they’ll be able to play on Friday. Burke said Rohan Smith may return at right tackle this week after sitting out another game, which would be a big boost for the line.