As a seventh-grade student who knew almost nothing about soccer, Jeremy Clark accompanied a friend to a tryout session for a Rim country team bound for the 1993 Grand Canyon Games.
Encouraged to participate in the practice, he made the Payson Sharpshooters squad and went on to become one of Payson's most accomplished young players.
Clark's career -- which began as a raw, untested talent -- culminated last week on the high school level when he was named to the Class 3A-1A All-State First Team.
He was the only Longhorn player named to the First Team. However, fellow senior Mark Petefish was given honorable mention accolades.
Clark said the all-state honor caps a high school tenure he has relished. But he'd like to continue on the college level if he can find the proper fit for his academic and athletic goals.
"I'd like to play at either Yavapai, Scottsdale or Mesa (colleges)," he said. Currently he is wrestling with a decision on which of the programs offers him his best chances for success.
In high school, Clark was a four-year letter winner who was a part-time starter as early as his freshman year.
Most of the time he played a forward position but, entering his senior campaign, was switched to midfield partly due to the graduation of several standouts the previous spring.
Clark says he enjoyed the new position because he was involved in most all phases of the game.
"And I get to set up the plays," he said.
Coach Dave Greiner describes the all-stater as "an intense player who would never quit."
As the cornerstone of the Horn team, Clark paced the Horns to the best record (8-2-2) in the team's history and a berth in the state tournament held in Tucson.
The experience of playing in the big show and winning the school's first state tournament game 3-1 over Phoenix Country Day School was the highlight of his days at PHS, he says.
However, the thrill of victory quickly turned to the heartbreak of defeat one day later when the Horns were eliminated from the tournament in a 7-4 double overtime quarterfinal loss to Palo Verde Christian. At half-time, the Horns held a 4-1 lead but couldn't thwart a spirited PVC comeback.
"That was tough," Clark said.
Petefish, also a senior, drew plaudits from Greiner throughout the season.
Following the loss to PVC, the coach said, "Mark just took charge and made things happen. He played a great game."
At the conclusion of the campaign, Greiner said, "he always seemed to come through for us at key times."
Petefish is also a long-time soccer player in local youths leagues. He dabbled in eighth grade football, but later opted to stay with soccer.