In the history of prep sports at Payson High School there have been many losses that have stung the emotions of players, coaches and fans.
But few defeats have been as charged as the Longhorn soccer team's 2-1 state tournament semifinal loss to the Round Valley Elks.
A win over RV Friday afternoon in Camp Verde would have propelled Payson into its first appearance in the state championship.
An opportunity to earn the state crown would have represented the culmination of a longtime dream of several local soccer enthusiasts, including Dr. Alfonzo Munoz and Roger Wholly, who helped found the team six years ago as a PHS club-sponsored activity.
Also, in facing Round Valley, the Horns were pitted against a season-long rival from the Mountain Region. Adding more fuel to the rivalry fire was the fact the state tournament encounter represented the rubber match in a three-game series between the two squads. In the regular season opener Sept. 1 in Eager, RV played its way to a 4-0 victory.
In a rematch Oct. 9 at Rumsey Park, the Horns copped revenge, whipping the Elks 5-2.
Prior to the state semifinal game, PHS coach Dave Greiner predicted his team would have to win every ball and control the center of the field to emerge victorious.
In the first half of play, Greiner's charges played as asked, but couldn't score despite several genuine opportunities.
The scoreless dead-knot ended at about the 20-minute mark when Longhorn Adam Staszak tallied on a direct kick to give Payson a 1-0 lead.
The lead looked like it might hold up until about 10 minutes to go when Round Valley tied the score with a goal of their own.
With the clock ticking down to only a minute and a half to play, the Elks tallied the winning goal on a break away.
"The defense was trying to make a play when it happened" Greiner said. "Joey Klein stopped (their breakaway) but couldn't control the ball and they scored."
Although RV won the game on the scoreboard, "We dominated every facet of the game," Greiner said.
With the win, Round Valley advanced to the state championship game played Saturday in Camp Verde.
The Elks eventually lost 3-1 to Blue Ridge who had earned a berth in the title game with a semifinal win over Chino Valley.
The Horns aren't state champs but can lay claim to a myriad of accomplishments including a regular season victory over Blue Ridge and a berth in the semifinals -- the first in the history of the soccer program at PHS.
The trip to state was also the third successive appearance in the tournament for a PHS team.
The Longhorns will celebrate the culmination of the highly successful season at 6 p.m. Nov. 10 with the annual awards banquet to be held at the Tonto Rim Baptist Camp.
There, Greiner will make public the list of Payson players who were selected to the all-region and state all-tournament teams.
The Longhorns, a senior-dominated squad, will lose the services of players who will graduate next spring with the class of 2000. They include Justin Cline, Kino Cohen, Meikle Garrett, Tanner Hatch, Joey Klein, Tyler Perna, Joey Robinson, David Shaw, Keith Stevens, Jared Wallace, Michael Wright and Staszak.