A banner season during which the Payson High School soccer team qualified for a state tournament berth and went on to win a first-round playoff game has yielded prestigious honors for four members of the squad.
In a voting of Rim region coaches at season's end, Longhorns Jeremy Clark, Mark Petefish, Matt Binney and Jeremy Conner were selected all-region players.
Longhorns coach Dave Greiner said he was elated four local athletes were chosen to the team in light of the fact that the Rim region proved to be the most competitive in the state producing the two state finalists -- Sedona and Chino Valley.
Slots on postseason star squads traditionally go to members of the state tournament finalists, but Rim coaches apparently thought enough of the Payson foursome to include them in their celestial selections.
Among Payson's all-region players, three -- Clark, Petefish and Binney -- are seniors and have played their final soccer games for the school. Conner is a junior and will return next season.
As a starting forward in the Horns' line-up last season, Conner, a veteran player of local youth leagues, was a multi-talented athlete. The youngster, Greiner said, "has all the skills and will do whatever it takes to put the ball in front of the net."
The coach characterized Binney, who played a midfield wing position, as "smooth on the field and easy to overlook until the end of the game when everyone knew who he was and what he could do."
In Petefish, a stopper, the Horns had an "explosive kind of player who could immediately make an impact on the game," the coach said.
At his forward position, Clark, "was the most intense player on the team," Greiner said.
In addition to losing Binney, Petefish, and Clark to graduation next spring, the Horns also will have to replace Brad Petry, Rayne Rhorbach, Jake Gobel and Joe Heineke -- also members of the class of 1999.
The athletes are eligible for even more postseason accolades when the results of the recent coaches balloting for the Class 3A All-State team is announced.
Show Low coach Bobbi Wasson heads the committee to select the team and plans to do so next week.
The year in review
During the 1998 campaign, the Longhorns turned in their most successful season earning a Rim region third-place finish and the school's second consecutive berth to the state tournament.
In 1997, behind the efforts of all-staters Ben Plumb and Travis Byler, the Horns nailed down the five-year-old soccer programs first state tournament seed. However, the team lost in the opening round.
This season, the Longhorns opened the state fray at Udall Park in Tucson with a 3-1 victory over Phoenix Country Day School.
In second-round action also in Tucson, the Horns built a 4-1 lead over Desert Region champion Palo Verde and appeared well on their way to a state semifinal contest.
But in the second half, a rejuvenated PV squad went on a scoring rampage to tie up the game at 4-4.
In double overtime, PV romped to a 7-4 victory to eliminate Payson from the tournament.
Following the loss, Greiner declared PV's victory an aberration and predicted the two Rim Region teams still alive in the tournament, Chino and Sedona, would advance to the finals.
Palo Verde was later eliminated by Rim champion Sedona.
In the gold-medal shoot-out, as Greiner predicted, the two Rim teams met.
Sedona, who the Longhorns split two regular season matches with, edged Chino for the crown.
With the campaign at an end, the team members have turned their attention to winter sports at Payson High. Some will also participate in local club play.