Coaches from around the state are anxiously thumbing through postseason state tournament brackets trying to pinpoint where their spring sports teams might be seeded.
Only last week, the Arizona Interscholastic Association -- the governing body of prep sports in the state -- sent the tournament bracketing to coaches and athletic directors for softball, baseball, golf and track and field.
The seeding into the various state tournaments can play a huge role in determining eventual champions.
Many a good team has been eliminated in the first round because it had been paired against a No. 1 ranked powerhouse. On the other hand, some not-so-good teams have slipped through the cracks into state quarter and semi-final games because they've drawn weak sisters from down-and-out divisions.
Other factors in seeding are also weighed by coaches.
Only a few years ago, Payson High School baseball coach Teddy Pettet crossed his fingers for a lower seed in a coin flip because he didn't want the team to languish in the 100-degree-plus afternoon desert heat the higher seed was to play in. The lower seed had drawn a much cooler night time playing slot.
During the Blue Ridge Yellow Jacket football team's run to four consecutive championships, many fine squads were eliminated in the first or second round because they were pitted against the Jackets earlier rather than in the state finals.
In softball, the first two rounds of the state tournament are set for May 7 and 8 at the Desert West Complex in Phoenix. The championship rounds are slated for May 14 and 15 at the Rose Mofford Complex, also in Phoenix.
If the Lady Horns, now 1-2 in the Central division, can pull off a miracle turnaround and win the division crown, they would open against the West division three finisher.
With a second-place slot, the Lady Horns would play the East runner-up. As the Central's third and final seed, the Horns would open against the West champion.
One of the worst case scenarios for the Payson squad might be to finish second and be forced to play the East where powerhouses Show Low and Snowflake reside. Either of those foes would be formidable.
All 15 games of the Class 3A state baseball tournament will be played in the Peoria Sports Complex which serves as a major league spring training facility.
The opening two rounds are slated for May 7 and 8. The final four contests and champion game will be played May 14 and 15.
The Longhorns are not mathematically eliminated from winning the Central division championship but the odds-on favorite to win it is undefeated and No. 1 ranked Cactus Shadows. The Horns will learn just how tough CS is April 13 when the Falcons visit Payson. The second clash between the two will be played April 28 in Cave Creek.
In the state tournament, the Central champion opens against West-three. The Central runner-up plays South-two and Central's third seed is pitted against the West champion.
The Horns, however, are not a shoo-in for any of the three seeds to state.
"With only three teams (of seven) going (to state), every game is important. Drop a couple, and pretty soon you might be out of it," coach Teddy Pettet said.
Track and Field
To participate in the 3A state track and field finals, athletes must either meet minimum event standards and be rewarded with outside qualifying berths or finish among the top four at divisional championships.
The Central gold-medal games will be held May 7 and 8 on the campus of Arizona Boys Ranch.
On the boys' team, Payson's lone state qualifier is middle distance runner Heath Boyle who met minimum standards by running the 800 meters in 2:03.51 at a Tucson meet earlier this season.
On the Lady Horns' squad, Rheanna Martinez has outside qualified in the 100 meters (13.04) and the triple jump (35 feet). Stephanie Robertson is eligible for state in the 300 hurdles (48.45) and long jump (16 feet, 9 1/2 inches).
Also qualified is the lightning-quick 4x400 relay team of Robertson, Martinez, Katie Langeliers and Brianna Marshall (4:20.65). The foursome might be the team to beat at the Central finals and a strong contender at state.
The state championships are set for May 14 and 15 at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Field event finals begin at 3:30 p.m. May 16 and the track finals start at 4:30 p.m. that same day.
On the links
For coach Dave Bradley's golf team to qualify it's entire contingent of five varsity members, the squad will need a top-three finish at the Central division tournament April 28 at Fountain Hills.
If the Horns qualify, they travel May 11 and 12 to Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club in Cave Creek for the state championships. Tee time both days is at 7 p.m.
Paced by sophomore Tyson McKee, Bradley has fielded a potent team that has frequently displayed the potential to make a run at the Central crown.
One such showing occurred in the four-way contest March 26 at Chaparral Pines. The Longhorns easily won the affair finishing with a 218. Runner-up Wickenburg carded a 229. A pair of Central foes, Santa Cruz (244) and Globe (282), trailed.
If the Longhorns should somehow falter at the Central championships and not finish among the top three, players would have to qualify individually for state by meeting minimum scores.