Don't be alarmed if a touch of rough-and-tumble deja vu runs rampant in veteran members of the Longhorn sports teams this school year.
In 1999, Payson High -- with four state championships, a state runner-up and the prestigious Don Stone award to its credit--triumphantly returns to its former home in the East division where the Longhorns last resided when the Class of 2000 was in its high school infancy.
The PHS seniors, as the only high school class to have ever competed as a member of the East, will undoubtedly recall what it was like to go head-to-head, night in and night out, against the likes of long-time tough guys Blue Ridge, Snowflake, Round Valley and Show Low.
Memories of life in the East shines most vividly in the senior football players who -- in 1996 -- capped a 7-0-1 freshman season, with a 22-12 victory over Blue Ridge.
Through the years, the East has built a reputation of being the most competitive, hard fought division in the Class 3A conference. Evidence that the East truly dominates the state sports scene pops up at the end of each season, when the division produces most of the state finalists.
Payson High -- which was a brief East member from 1982 to 1984 -- last roamed with the beasts of the East beginning in 1991. But in a 1996 Arizona Interscholastic Association-mandated realignment, it was transferred to the newly formed Central Division.
Just as Payson departed the East for new hunting grounds, Horn wrestling coach Dennis Pirch probably summarized feelings best, saying, "The East has kind of mystique about it. The schools, the families, the communities care and do so much about their young people."
Last spring -- in yet another AIA realignment -- the Central Division's short life ended and orphaned Payson was sent yo-yoing home to the East.
With a sharp eye focused east toward the lands of the Cougars, Lobos and Jackets, the Horns' four fall sports teams -- football, volleyball, soccer and cross country -- begin preseason preparations Monday.
At 7 a.m., the Longhorn football team takes to the field for the much-dreaded two-a-day sessions which traditionally test the mettle of the most talented of gridiron hopefuls. The morning sessions wrap up about 9:30 a.m.
After a brief afternoon respite, the gridders are scheduled to return to the high school practice field at 5 p.m. and continue until 7:30 p.m.
Only jayvee and varsity candidates will participate in the two-a-day drills.
The freshmen are scheduled to practice from 3 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., also on the PHS field.
That practice schedule continues throughout next week.
Coach Steve Konvalin's volleyball team will participate in tryout sessions Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 until 11 a.m.
After the tryouts, the varsity squad will be narrowed down to 10 players, the jayvee to either 10, 11 or 12 and the freshman to 12, Konvalin said. Practice sessions will continue through the week beginning at 8 a.m.
The coach asks that all prospective players show up for the first sessions dressed and prepared to participate in a full session.
The Longhorn boys' varsity and jayvee teams are scheduled to host practice sessions from 3 until 5 p.m. next week at the Rumsey Park multipurpose field.
From 6 to 8:30 p.m., coach Linda Gibson's soccer team preps for the upcoming season, also on the Rumsey field.
Athletes should wear shirt, shorts and running shoes and have FIFA approved soccer shoes with shin guards.
Under the direction of coach Chuck Hardt, the cross country squad will practice next week from 9 until 10:30 a.m. The athletes should meet each day at the Rumsey Park main ramada for stretching, conditioning and instruction.
Before an athlete can compete in any practice session, a physical exam and parent permission slips must be filed in the office of PHS Athletic Director Barry Smith.
No paperwork, no practice, Smith says.
Also, a $30 participation fee is required of all prospective players.
For more information, call Smith's office at 474-2233.