Fans love rivalry games.

So do players and coaches.

They’re what it’s all about.

Especially when there’s plenty on the line.

Well, there’s a lot on the line once again as Snowflake heads to Payson to renew the rivalry between 3A East foes at 7 o’clock tonight.

The #5 Lobos (5-1) are the defending state champions. Payson (4-2) is #15 and in need of a victory to both remain a contender for the region championship and keep their hopes for a state tournament home game and a state tournament berth alive.

The Longhorns are coming off a 19-6 loss to #2 Round Valley that left them 0-1 in the 3A East.

They don’t want to start 0-2 in the region with three more challenging contests remaining, including next week’s game at #4 Show Low (6-0).

Payson’s big three rivals are Show Low, Blue Ridge and Snowflake.

The Lobos have won 10 of the last 12 meetings between the teams.

The Longhorns’ only wins in the series since a 36-19 state quarterfinal triumph in the 2008 playoffs, were both huge for the program. They prevailed in a 7-6 defensive thriller in the opening round of the 2016 state tournament for their only postseason win since claiming the 2008 title.

And they pulled out a 34-33 overtime thriller over the Lobos at Payson in 2019 that helped the Longhorns tie both Snowflake and Blue Ridge atop the 3A East standings. Payson won the tiebreaker to claim the region championship.

The Lobos have won all 10 other meetings over the last 12 years.

Snowflake’s only loss this season came by a 38-24 score in the season opener at #1 Chandler Valley Christian (6-0). The Lobos beat #12 Blue Ridge 41-0 at Blue Ridge in their only 3A East contest and are coming off a 50-0 blowout road victory against 4A school Peoria (1-4) last week.

Snowflake won 26-21 at #11 Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian (5-1) on Sept. 24.

The only common opponent between the teams is #23 Fountain Hills (2-4). The Lobos beat the Falcons 46-6 at home on Sept. 10. Payson won 31-6 at Fountain Hills on Sept. 16.

Snowflake has rushed for 1,156 yards and passed for 1,318.

Quarterback Caden Cantrell is 60-for-110 passing for 1,075 yards and 15 touchdowns with four interceptions.

Camden Brimhall leads the Lobos with 453 rushing yards on 73 carries (6.2 avg.) and six TDs. Cantrell has rushed 55 times for 356 yards (6.5 avg.) and four TDs.

Noah Baum is the team’s top receiver with 23 catches for 511 yards (22.2 avg.) and seven TDs.

Brimhall is their top kick/punt returner.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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