Longhorn golf coach Dave Bradley has contended all season long that his team harbored the potential to make a run at a state title.
The squad had its up and downs, but a third-place finish at the Central Division championships two weeks ago gave the Horns a crucial team berth to the state tournament. The Horns took a full contingent of five players.
At state, played May 11 and 12 on the Dove Valley course in Cave Creek, the Horns lived up to their coach's expectations, finishing as runner-up behind champion Cactus Shadows.
Sixteen of the best teams from the five divisions in the 3A conference made up a tournament field that Bradley described as very competitive.
With a talented lineup that could contend for a state championship in the big school 4A and 5A conferences, Cactus Shadows ran away with the title with a team score of 645.
In finishing second, Payson carded a commendable 654. Safford, the bronze medalist, finished at 662.
The Longhorns' strong showing in the state tournament, Bradley said, was the result "of a great effort from our kids."
In finishing with a 149, sophomore Tyson Mckee was Payson's top entrant, taking third-place honors. Senior Rayne Rohrback turned in a 165 and was only three strokes out of a top-10 finish, Bradley said.
Tyler Perna carded a 166 and Adam Stazak a 181 for PHS.
Alternating over the two days, Keith Steven and Joey Coburn joined forces for a 178. Stevens played the first 18 holes and Coburn the second.
Coburn's 86 on the second day of play, Bradley said, "was a big help. It kept us in second place."
The Horns' best efforts during the tournament were turned in over the front nine holes at Dove Valley, where the squad shot only four over par.
The back nine, however, was much tougher for the Longhorn linksters. The Horns struggled there due to the desert heat and a tougher layout that included two par 5 holes over some desert washes and gullies, Bradley said.
The only team that was able to negotiate the back nine successfully was state champion Cactus Shadows, whose athletes are familiar with the course.
Off the state silver medalist team, the Horns lose just two players -- Rohrback and Coburn -- to graduation this month.
The future is bright, Bradley said, because the remainder of the varsity roster returns intact and will be supplemented next season with several talented jayvee players.
Several talented players in the Rim Country Middle School class might also contend for a varsity spot next year, Bradley said.