The frivolity of spring break ended Monday afternoon for Longhorn teams when athletes trudged back onto practice fields to begin preparations for regular season stretch-runs and possible berths in the state playoffs.
Coach Teddy Pettet's state fourth-ranked Horn baseball squad (6-3 overall, 1-0 in the division) -- fresh off a 12-0 victory over Miami March 16 -- has its sights set on remaining undefeated in the Central Division, with a win over Globe today at 3:30 p.m. on PHS field.
With the baseball squad at home, the Lady Longhorns (3-3 overall, 1-0 in the division) are set to travel to Globe today for a Central Division encounter.
Like the baseball team, the Lady Horns are trying to build momentum following a division opening victory over Miami. The PHS softballers whipped the Vandals 9-5, March 16, behind the hurling of Monica Mendoza and the hitting of Alison Crabtree, who was 3 for 4 at the plate including a triple and two singles.
The PHS track and field teams spring back into action, tomorrow, Wednesday, at Red Mountain High School in a three-way meet. The girls' team last flexed its collective muscle March 13 by running away with the 12-team Ray Relay championship.
In the same meet, the boys' teams finished third, only one point behind runner-up Snowflake, and 25 off the pace of meet champion Winslow.
The golf team, fueled by four returning varsity letter-winners, will travel to the Johnson Ranch course near Coolidge tomorrow, Wednesday, for both jayvee and varsity action.
Diamond squad ranked fourth in Central
Boasting of a potent hitting attack bordering on being one of the best in the Central division, coach Pettet is scouring his lineup for quality pitchers to back up front-line starter Bryan Zumbro (2-1).
Hurling help could come from Josh McRae, Tyler Pettet -- the coach's son -- or the most unlikely of sources ---catcher Marc Bennett.
McRae has fashioned a 2-1 record with a 6.18 ERA and was especially impressive in a 9-3 win over San Manuel, in the Miami Tournament played March 13.
Following the win, coach Pettet said his efforts were "an encouraging sign we have another quality starting pitcher."
Tyler Pettet, a sophomore who seeds considerable jayvee action, is 1-0 and has a 3.5 ERA in varsity competition.
The surprise on the pitching staff has to be when all-division catcher Marc Bennett makes the strange stroll to the mound.
The strong-armed senior, a darn-good football player looking to continue on the college level, was called up to start in the Miami tournament against Chandler Seton and responded with an 8-6 victory.
In the win, he allowed just three hits, walked seven and struck out five.
His only shortcoming, coach Pettet said, was with his control.
Should the team need his mound spark once again, the coach said he would have no reservations in pulling him from his usual backstop duties for pitching help.
Prior to Tuesday's game win over Miami, Pettet said he was mildly concerned that Zumbro -- his ace -- could throw strikes against Vandal batters, many of who are diminutive in stature.
Throwing into a greatly reduced strike zone, Zumbro managed to hurl a perfect game, striking out 12 of the 15 batters he faced during the five-inning encounter, which ended on the 10-run rule.
Relying mostly on fastballs, Zumbro used his curve only on their better hitters, he said.
The efforts of Zumbro and his teammates have lifted the Horns to a fourth-place state ranking behind third-rated Round Valley, second-ranked Benson, and number-one Cave Creek Cactus Shadows.
Cactus Shadows is 8-0, Benson 6-1 and Round Valley 6-0.
The Longhorns and Cactus will first meet in Payson April 13. Should both squads continue winning, the game could go a long way in deciding the Central Division championship. The squads have a return engagement April 28 in Cave Creek.
Cactus, coach Pettet said, is the team to beat in the division.
Girls softball could be a contender
Just as the baseball team needs good pitchers to be successful, so does coach Greg Larkins' Lady Longhorns.
Monica Mendoza, a front-line jayvee pitcher last season, was especially effective in Tuesday's win over Miami and might get the start today against Globe.
If not, Larkins could opt for Tiffany Lubken or possibly Sidney Swartwood.
Lubken is a veteran of Amateur Softball Association play in the Valley and sports several different pitching offerings which make it tough on opposing hitters.
As a varsity letter winner last season, Swartwood showed promise on the hill but lately has been used mostly as an infielder.
In early season drills, Larkins said he felt comfortable calling upon any one of the trio to hurl.
If the Lady Horns are to remain on the winning track in upcoming Central encounters, the team will need to show more of the offense spark it did in last week's win over Miami. The game was a much-welcomed bright spot for the PHS coaching staff, in light of a poor offensive showing in the San Manuel tournament played March 5, 6 and 7.
In fashioning a 1-3 record in the fray, Horn batters committed a whopping 25 strike-outs.
If the Horn hitting crew of Jennifer McRae, Joy Stidham, Carie Gugiano, Crabtree, Swartwood and others round into form, the Horns could make their presence known in the Central Division.
Payson prepares to dethrone Safford at state
If any team is going to wrestle the state championship away from Safford -- who has won the Class 3A title a national record 13 consecutive years -- it might have to be the Lady Horns.
In winning the Ray Relays, the Lady Horns put on a strong display of speed and durability that could give Safford fits when the state tournament rolls around May 14-15 at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Many of the Horn team points come in the hurdles, where Payson sports one of the state's best in senior Stephanie Robertson.
In addition to being the state record holder in the 300-meter hurdles, she's also an accomplished high jumper and long jumper. In the high jump, she cleared 5 feet, 6 inches and in the long jump, 16 feet, 10 inches -- both are school records.
But running and jumping are not her only talents -- she's also a good shot-putter who might soon threaten the 35-foot mark.
Also in the Lady Horn arsenal, Rheanna Martinez is only a sophomore but has already established herself as one of the conference's best in the triple jump. As the winner of the 200-meter dash at the Ray Relays, she stamped herself as an up-and-coming sprinter.
In the distance events, Stephanie Ray won the 3,200-meter run at the relays.
Ray has plenty of support in the runs, with promising freshmen Amy Davis and Leighann Hayes in the Horn fold.
The girls' pole vault is a relatively new event in the 3A conference, but the Horns have already uncovered three promising athletes in Shawna McCarty, April Cheek and Katie Smoyer. The trio joined forces at Ray to win the PV relay with a combined height of 20 feet, 6 inches. The mark was a new meet record.
Boys' track squad
On the boys' team, the Horns are without the true superstars they've had in the past, when Mark Hochstetler, Tim Ryden, Bo Althoff, Darren Reid and Todd Reid were plying their wares. Instead, the Horns have relied on team depth for several impressive showings, including winning the Arizona Boys Ranch Invitational March 6.
Senior Heath Boyle was in top form at Ray, winning the 800 meters in a very good ET of 2:11.97.
Throws coach Pete Greer led his shot-put and discus relay teams to twin wins at Ray. Senior Mike Barker buoyed both the relay teams, then jumped into the 800 sprint relay event and helped that squad take first place in 1:45.1.
It's a very rare occurrence in high school track and field when an athlete competes in both the throws and running events, but Barker is a well-rounded athlete who has the potential to be successful in a multitude of challenges.
Both the boys' and girls' teams will face one of their toughest tests of the season March 27 at the Chandler Invitations. There, Payson will be pitted against the state's best from 2A-5A conferences.
Chaparral Pines prepares young golfers for Valley's best
During the spring months, golf is one of the most popular sports in Arizona, whether played in the Rim country or the desert courses near Phoenix.
The Longhorn squad of coach Dave Bradley is lucky enough to play both the prestigious Chaparral Pines course and some of the Valley's best, including Troon North and Eagle Mountain.
Practicing and playing on Chaparral Pines, Bradley said, gives his team the confidence to challenge opponents on the desert courses where many PGA tournaments are held. The Horns return to action at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, when Globe, Santa Cruz and Camp Verde visit for a four-way meet.
The Longhorns are fueled by a veteran crew of prep golfers including Adam Stazak, Tyson McKee, Rayne Rohrbach and Josh Coburn. Keith Stevens, Dallin McLaws, Tyler Perna and Cameron Omoto give the Horns team depth to battle the state's best.
With 12 players in the line-up, Payson will also field a jayvee team during the stretch run which culminates May 11-12 with the state tournament.