To football coaches, polls, predications and previews mean very little. In fact, most will tell you polls are a pain in the backside and to never heed their prognostications. Coaches say they are compiled mostly by unknowing sportswriters who understand little of the nuances of the sport.
But fans like these predictions and players privately check polls out to find out if they are getting any recognition for their efforts.
With football practices for Class 3A schools having begun Monday, the first of the preseason polls has hit the newsstands in the 29th annual edition of Barry Sollenberger's 1999 Arizona Football magazine. Sollenberger has long been the guru of high school sports in the state and is acknowledged as an authority on Arizona prep sports history.
So what does Sollenberger and his cast of five writers think of Payson's chances for a second successive Class 3A state championship?
Apparently, not much.
Sollenberger has predicted that "Blue Ridge will bounce back" from the 29-20 whipping the Longhorns dished out in the state championship last year that ended the BR's state-record 63-game winning streak. Payson's victory also put the clamps on the Jackets' four-straight state crowns.
In the magazine's state rankings for 3A, Blue Ridge is first, Coolidge second and Show Low third. Oddly, Payson has been relegated to a fourth-place standing.
In the East Division poll, Payson is ranked third behind No. 1 Blue Ridge and number-two Show Low.
Is Payson getting the respect it deserves after rolling to a 13-0 record last year?
There are some who believe the state-champion Horns have earned the privilege of being top-ranked and the only way they should be knocked off the lofty perch is by a loss on the field.
Apparently, Sollenberger and his crew don't believe the Horns have the athletes to replace the talent lost last spring with the graduation of such standouts as Cable Morris, Hunter Walden, Ty Hulbert, Ryan Lorentz and others.
Sollenberger predicts "Blue Ridge is the team to beat" and Show Low "has averaged nine wins per season since 1996 and has only one thing left to accomplish (a championship) at state."
Sollenberger acknowledges several local athletes among his "Arizona Checklist of Players" he predicts are bound for stardom.
Senior Timmy Bunting is listed among the state's best running backs, as is Cade Bradley as a lineman. Jimbo Armstrong is picked as a top linebacker.
Bryan Zumbro is chosen as one of the best centers in Arizona, but the senior will apparently forgo the football season in order to concentrate on baseball.
More polls will be released later in the season and it will be interesting to learn what they think of Payson's chances for another run at the state crown.
But fans need to keep in mind that many a team has opened the season unranked only to go on to win a state crown.
Championships are won on the field, not in polls.
"We need help," says Payson Youth Football Cheer Coordinator Lori Burke. She's looking for dedicated volunteers to serve as cheer coaches, cheer moms and concession stand help during the upcoming season.
Applicants for cheer coaches must be at least 18 years of age and be willing to volunteer two to three evenings a week, plus Saturdays when games are played. Every other Saturday's game is out of town.
Cheer squads and players are in their second week of preseason practice.
Call Burke at 474-0759 for more information.