Payson’s Longhorns stampeded into Tuesday night’s showdown of state power hopefuls with a sparkling 3-0 record, having dominated every opponent.
The talented and veteran Longhorns looked like a real threat to end Payson’s state title drought.
They still may be.
Tuesday’s heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Snowflake didn’t decide anything.
It just showed any thought of glory needs to be tempered with determination moving forward.
They hadn’t faced a test in outscoring their first three opponents 30-3.
They’ve faced one now.
And they’ll face others.
One of them is the same Snowflake (3-0) team they just lost to.
Fortunately, Payson (3-1) doesn’t have to wait long for a chance to avenge the loss. They play again in the Show Low Invitational, which is today and Saturday.
The only score came on a memorable play 25:47 into the game.
Payson’s standout sophomore netminder Jesus Hernandez ventured far out of the goal to stop a Snowflake attacker and possibly cut down the angle. The athletic Hernandez leapt into the air and tried to kick the ball away from Lobos junior Dallon Hatch
Bryant came down with teammate Jonathan Pence’s long kick pass with no one between him and the goal.
And that was it.
“Some balls get through and that one got through,” said Payson coach Billy Spalding. “We got it on video, so we’ll be able to look at it and talk about it as a team.”
The coach was encouraged by much of what he saw from his team in the game and said the Lobos were able to give their starters the kind of rest he couldn’t.
“It was a great game,” he said. “The boys played really well. We really just didn’t have the subs that they have. They had fresh legs coming in and out of the game and most of our guys stayed in the entire game.
“The truth is, the stats show, they took four shots on goal. We took 13. They just happened to get one through. So, we played really well. I’m convinced that next time we play them we’re going to beat them.”
Now, they play them next today. But that won’t count. However, they could meet in the state tournament.
At least one Lobo wouldn’t be shocked if Payson pulled out the next game.
“They’re a great team,” Hatch said. “They’re going to be a challenge throughout the rest of the year and I look forward to playing them again.”
Third-year Snowflake coach Joshua Johnson said this team played well in every aspect of the game.
“It was our biggest challenge of the year,” Johnson said. “Payson is a great team, but Snowflake just stepped up and had a good game. We had solid defense, good goalkeeping, fast-breaks and we just finished the goal when we needed to. We created the opportunity to finish it.”
It is our biggest challenge this year. We’re looking at Payson as being a great team, they are a great team, but Snowflake just stepped up and had a good game.
This is the first time this season Payson’s been shut out. They lost 1-0 to #2 Blue Ridge in the first round/quarterfinals of last year’s state tournament. It was the Jackets’ closest game in their three-game march to a second consecutive state championship.
Payson is hoping to make sure that Blue Ridge or any other team doesn’t celebrate this year’s championship.
But they’ll have to score to do that and that’s just something that they were unable to do in this first big test of the season.
Payson put 13 shots on goal but Snowflake sophomore Colben Bryant stopped all of them for the shutout.
Show Low Invitational
The Longhorns open their four-game Show Low Invitational schedule at 10 a.m. today (Sept. 17) against Show Low. The Horns then meet Snowflake at 2 p.m.
Payson closes the tournament with two more games on Saturday, facing Benson at 10 a.m. and St. Johns at 2 p.m. St. Johns went 9-2-1 in 2019. Two of those wins came against Payson by 3-2 and 2-1 scores.
The tournament games don’t count in the state rankings that will be released beginning on September 23. And they won’t count in the final rankings, which determine the seeding for the Arizona Interscholastic Association 2A State Championships.
You want the top seed.
If you’re good enough.
There are 26 teams playing boys fall soccer.
These Longhorns should qualify for the state tournament.
We’ll just have to wait to see where they rank and what kind of matchup they get in the first round.
We’ll get a clearer picture of what seed they’ll occupy this weekend because, although the actual games won’t count in the rankings, these Longhorns have a golden opportunity to show how they perform in a tournament setting against quality teams.
Including one that narrowly handed them their first loss.