Word out of the White Mountains is that rabid Blue Ridge fans are in a frenzy anxiously awaiting this evening's visit from the defending state champion Longhorns .
You can bet the family farm the stands will overflow with vocal, unnerving fans looking forward to cheering their beloved Yellow Jackets onto a revenge victory over Payson.
Dream streak ended
In the state championship game last year at Mesa College, Payson ended the Yellow Jackets 54-game win streak and stranglehold the school has held on the state championship.
If you were there, you noticed it was a downhearted, somber group of Blue Ridge fans who walked away from the game wondering what could have happened to end the school's dream streak that seemed would go on forever.
At Blue Ridge, they are not accustomed to losing whenever football is involved.
Friends in the White Mountain communities of Show Low, Pinetop and Lakeside tell me that since the loss, fans have eagerly anticipated today's clash.
They take their high school football very serious in Lakeside -- probably as serious as any of the state's 5A schools including tradition-rich St. Marys and Mesa Mountain View.
The ardent fan support gives the Blue Ridge players a distinct home field advantage and is one of the reasons the Yellow Jackets haven't been beaten on their own turf in recent memory.
Hometown fans contribute to victory
As coach at Show Low High School in 1984, we snuck into Yellow Jacket stadium, picked up a 10-point victory and scampered home proud of our win.
But our hometown fans had a lot to do with the victory -- they came from Show Low in droves to yell, cheer, stamp their feet and do whatever it took to help the kids.
The show of support was a tremendous boost for the players and to this day, I'm not sure we could have won without them.
A hostile crowd can have a huge impact on a teen-ager's psyche.
At the state championship game last year, it appeared the number of Payson fans equaled or exceeded those of Blue Ridge.
But for unknown reasons, fan support of this year's team has not reached the numbers it did last season.
And that's too bad.
The young men traveling East today to represent our school and community deserve all the support and help we can give them. They are a good group of kids who have worked their tails off since they were just elementary school students playing youth football. This could be the biggest game of their careers.
Gas up the family car and set a course for Lakeside. Kick off is 7 p.m.