After watching his team's 4-1 first half lead dissipate into a 7-4 double-overtime state tournament victory for Palo Verde Christian, Longhorns soccer coach Dave Greiner said he felt the better team did not win.
The coach steadfastly maintains the Horns were a superior squad that, for unknown reasons, experienced a second-half let-down. The game, a state second-rounder, was played Oct. 31 in Tucson.
Greiner also predicted that the Rim region - which the Horns participate in - was the most competitive in the state and would eventually produce the Class 3A champion.
Greiner was right on target.
Saturday in Tucson, Sedona beat Chino Valley in the state championship clash.
Both teams represent the Rim region and are no strangers to Payson players and fans.
During regular season action, the Horns split with Sedona whipping them in the first go-around 4-3 but falling in the second 4-2.
Against Chino Valley, the Horns were beaten 3-2 in the first contest, but came back to tie the follow up encounter 2-2.
The results of the state championship, Greiner said, proves that all season long the Horns were battling the best Arizona has to offer.
"I think we were one of the top four teams in the state. There's no doubt the (Rim) region was the toughest," he said.
The past year, however, might have been the Horns last in the Rim region.
In an Arizona Interscholastic Association-mandated realignment, Payson has been sent to the East region.
The soccer teams function a bit different than the other high school sports in that their region assignments are not aligned with sports like football, basketball, wrestling, baseball and volleyball.
When Payson High was competing in the Central Division the past two years, the soccer team was in the Rim because there was no Central soccer division.
But now that Payson is in the East where every school sports soccer squads, Greiner's Longhorns could move with the other PHS athletic teams.
To make the move, Greiner said, it will have to be agreed upon in a voting of soccer coaches and athletic directors in May of 1999.
While the Rim region has proved to be the most competitive, Greiner said he would like to see Payson realigned in the East.
"Because of travel, the travel last year just killed us," he said.
In the Rim, the Horns had to travel to far-away Grand Canyon and Pinon which are almost six-hour trips. The visit to Ash Fork is also a long, long ride.
In the East, the team would have to visit Springerville/Eager but even that jaunt is shorter than the bus trip to Pinon.
Shorter bus rides mean fresher athletes and more alert students in school the following day. Arriving home in Payson well after midnight and returning to school bright and early the next morning has been tough on the athletes, the coach said.
Shifting to the East, Greiner said, "would not be a negative, those schools have made some great strides, especially Show Low and Round Valley."