When the Lady Longhorn softball team takes the field next spring, a new head coach will be at the helm of the program.
Thirty-one-year-old Will Dunman has assumed the softball reins vacated at the end of school year by the resignation of former coach Greg Larkins.
After two years as head coach, Larkins elected to retire from both full-time coaching and teaching.
Larkins said he will probably stay on at Payson High as a part-time librarian.
Dunman, a special education teacher at Julia Randall Elementary School, coached the jayvee and freshman softball team to a 21-1 record last season and rapidly developed the reputation as a firm but well respected coach.
"We didn't know what to expect from him at first, but by the end (of the season), we really liked him," former freshman player Lee Ann Owens said.
Dunman said his coaching philosophy includes a strong emphasis on both fundamentals and conditioning.
"We will practice the basics every day and we will be physically ready for all game situations," he said.
Dunman also expects to field an exciting team that will excel in bunting, stealing and the hit and run.
"We'll play the short game," he said.
With Payson High School leaving the now defunct Central Division and moving to the rough and tumble East where powerhouses Show Low and Snowflake reside, Dunman will be facing even stiffer challenges.
"Those two teams went to state last year," he said. "They are tough like the entire division, but we'll be ready."
The new coach is a 1997 graduate of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff where he earned a BA degree in elementary special education.
He began his coaching career in Flagstaff as both a baseball coach for a local American Legion team and as a freshman and jayvee coach at Flagstaff High School.
As the Eagles' freshman coach in 1997, he led the team to a 9-3 record and a split with the Payson frosh.
"Playing Payson was how I got to know (PHS assistant coach) Cheri Brennen," Dunman said. "We talked and when this job (at JRE) came open, I applied for it."
The new coach hasn't wasted any time delving into his job responsibility.
At 7 each morning he's on the PHS field practicing prospective players for summer league and last weekend's Grand Canyon Games.
During the evening hours, he's back at the field running the concessions stand during Town League games to generate money for the softball program.
In the afternoon hours, he scours the town asking businessmen to purchase 4x5 foot banners that will be displayed on the PHS outfield fence next season.
Also on Dunman's team agenda is a Arizona State University-sponsored softball camp scheduled for July 12 to 14 in Flagstaff.
The coach says the camp will be a great opportunity for his young players to hone and improve their diamond skills for next season's play. He's hoping that at least 15 players take advantage of the camping opportunity.
Last weekend, Dunman escorted a team of Rim country players, sponsored by the local Elks Lodge, to the Grand Canyon Games in Phoenix.
The summer commitments to play softball whenever possible, Dunman says, will lay the foundation for what he hopes will be a highly successful high school program.
Dunman is married and the father of three children.