Since the inception of a tackle football program at Rim Country Middle School in 1994, the Mavericks have fielded some of the best teams in the White Mountain League with four unbeaten championship squads.
Despite the success, the Mav teams were some of the worst-outfitted in the league, wearing uniforms and equipment that were unsightly, out-dated and often too small for the larger players.
Equipment had to be borrowed from the high school program and sometimes the Central Arizona Youth Football League.
Three years ago, the Payson Rodeo Committee chipped in to purchase a pair of helmets for hard-to-fit youngsters.
Through the years, RCMS players have often been left wondering why they didn't sport the same up-scale uniforms and equipment opponents wore.
On the 1995 championship team, one youngster quizzed, "Do the people in Show Low care more (about their children playing football) than they do in Payson?"
That question was answered last spring when members of the Mogollon Sporting Association voted to award the Maverick 7th and 8th grade teams almost $4,000 to purchase much-needed equipment.
With the money, the team was able to buy 60 top-quality uniforms, pro-grade helmets and various protective pads.
Buoyed by MSA's show of support, the seventh and eighth grade teams went on to post combined 11-1 credentials. The eighth graders won the WML championship.
The beginnings of the association
MSA's commitment to youth programs in the Rim country didn't begin -- nor will it end -- with the RCMS gridiron program.
When MSA was formed in 1992, its founders wrote their mission statement:
"To enhance wildlife, environment, education and our economy in the Mogollon Rim country by supporting local quality game management and our local businesses."
Since its inception, the receipts from annual banquets have allowed the association to donate more than $120,000, MSA member Russ Kinzer said.
Equal amounts of the funds have been distributed to local youth programs and to wildlife projects.
MSA funds have purchased ellipsoid lights for the high school drama program, drums, cymbals, clarinets and saxophones for the Payson High School music department, soccer goals, PHS cheer squad uniforms, a basketball rebound machine at the high school, RCMS girls' softball and wrestling uniforms, baseball backstops on the high school fields and other various needed equipment.
Donations have also been awarded to the Chance Amon playground project, summer training camps, scholarships, the Mogollon Montoneras, Eastern Arizona College campus and to fund the Holiday Hoops Girls' Basketball Tournament and the Tim Van Horn Memorial Wrestling Tournament.
Both those tournaments received $1,500 each from the $13,000 that MSA distributed to youth programs in 1998.
Even more money
Most of the money MSA awards to wildlife projects is used in Unit 22 near Payson.
Funds have been donated for controlled burns, seeding projects, habitat improvements and spring developments.
Another important target of MSA funding is the building and repairing of water guzzlers for elk, deer and waterfowl.
The MSA is also one of the chief financial backers of the annual Wildlife Fair and fishing derby held each spring in Green Valley park.
Three years ago, MSA purchased two state-of-the-art metal detectors for Arizona Game and Fish Department officers to use in investigations of poachings and illegal killings.
Where does it come from?
Some shrug their shoulders in disbelief when they learn a group of about 40 local residents are able to generate thousands of dollars in a small community like Payson.
It's a year-round job, Kinzer said, that culminates in 1999 with the banquet-auction-raffle May 2. Association members are still in the process of rounding up the hundreds of prizes and auction items to be awarded that evening.
Kinzer said he expects the prize list to be even more impressive than it was last spring.
In 1998 at a special gun raffle, a Remington BDL 338 Magnum Deluxe and a world-class Tasco 6x24x40 rifle scope were given away.
Another raffle prize included a guided elk hunt on the Baca Ranch near San Ysidro, New Mexico.
In a ladies' giveaway, the prizes included a $2,000 Payson Jewelers gift certificate and a $250 certificate for Dakota Trading Company.
A dinner ticket drawing gave away a set of four new tires, a two-night stay at Kohl's Ranch and a $350 Seiko lady's' watch.
Among the auction items were Phoenix Suns tickets, signature wildlife prints, fishing equipment, gun cases, outdoor clothing, binoculars, spotting scopes and more.
During a highly popular blitz raffle, one of the lucky winners took home a side of beef, cut and wrapped.
The silent auction featured 16 stunning prizes, one of which was a .50 caliber black powder rifle.
MSA members expect to duplicate last year's extensive prize/raffle/auction haul and are focusing on adding a special touch of a guided javelina hunt that could be used during a three-month period in any hunt unit.
"We're still putting that together," Kinzer said.
Last year's banquet sold out quickly when it was held at a local restaurant that seated about 200.
This year, the banquet has been moved to the Mazatzal Casino that has a seating capacity of 250.
But, members warn, the tickets will sell out quickly when they become available March 1.
Those interested in participating in one of the most festive events of the Rim country's spring sports season should make arrangements to purchase tickets at first opportunity, Kinzer said.
Seventh Annual Mogollon Sporting Association 1999 Banquet and Auction
Where: Mazatzal Casino, south of Payson.
When: Saturday, May 1, 1999. No-host cocktails 5 p.m.; dinner and door prizes 6 p.m.; raffle 7 p.m.
Why: Proceeds fund MSA wildlife enhancement and youth projects in the Rim country.
Tickets: $50 each, available March 1, 1999 from any MSA member.
For more information: call (520) 472-9794.