Blue Ridge The Team To Beat Once Again


Bundles of state football eyes were pointed toward Payson Friday evening, where the second-ranked Longhorns were opening defense of their 1998 state championship against fourth-ranked Safford.

Equally as much attention was focused on Lakeside, where third-ranked Blue Ridge was trying to recover from a 29-20 loss to Payson in last year's state championship game. That loss ended the Yellow Jackets' state-record 63-game winning streak. The only team in the United States that had a longer active streak at the time was De La Salle High in Concord, Calif.

The Jackets were pitted in their season opener against top-ranked Coolidge, which sports a pair of speedy Division I college recruits in Lee Wheeler and Preston Reece. The Bears have drawn all kinds of pre-season raves as the favorite to unseat Payson as state champions.

True to the tradition which Paul Moro has built since he took over the Blue Ridge program in 1984, the Yellow Jackets sent the Bears packing back to football reality with a 14-0 victory before an overflow home crowd.

The win means just one thing for the 3A conference -- the Yellow Jackets are back on track and ornery as ever.

Stadium renovation

The Payson School District's Stadium Renovation Committee, which has been formed to spearhead improvement projects on the PHS football stadium and track, met Thursday evening in the school board offices.

The committee, which numbers about 20, went over architectural services, sketch drawings and aerial photographs in an attempt to uncover the best and most feasible ways of bringing the stadium up to snuff.

Payson Schools Superintendent Herb Weissenfels says the group represents a "recharging of batteries" to finish a project that has almost always been put on the back burner due to lack of funds.

It's a great project that will go a long way in insuring adequate facilities for our community's sports and athletic programs. It deserves the support of everyone interested in the welfare of Payson's youth.

Much of the money for the renovation will come from the Credit For Kids tax program.

If you're interested in participating, check out the free edition of September 1999 Coldwell Banker/Bishop Realty Rim Country Photo Guide. The back cover details Credit For Kids and includes a contribution form. Call the school district office at 474-2070 for more information.

D-back fever

There's usually a large entourage of local baseball fans making the trek south whenever the Arizona Diamondbacks are at home in Bank One Ballpark.

Diamondback fever has spread far and wide to the Rim country, but no matter how many games fans have taken in, there's probably been none other equal in excitement to Sunday morning's clash against the red-hot Atlanta Braves in Atlanta.

A fan could attend pro games for decades and never witness a final inning like Arizona's three-out rally.

Yep, it was a three-out, come-from-behind win.

With D-back Kelly Stinnett at the plate and facing a two -strike, two-out count in the top of the ninth, the Braves led 5-4. Stinnett swung and missed at what should have been the third strike of the final out to end the game.

But Atlanta catcher Eddie Perez mishandled the pitch and Stinnett alertly set sail for first. That should have been no problem: Perez easily retrieves the ball near his feet and throws casually to first to end the game. It's a play you see in almost every Little League game.

But Perez, a very steady catcher, overthrew to first base, allowing Stinnett to advance to second.

With the newfound breath of life, Arizona rallied to score three runs, mostly courtesy of Luis Gonzales' two-run single to right.

In the bottom of the inning, Dimondback pitching held the Braves' hitters in check to allow Arizona to chalk up this most unusual 7-5 victory.

Most in the offices of The Payson Roundup are D-backs fans, but dark room technician Dave Rawsthorne is a rabid Braves fan dating back to the team's days in Milwaukee.

Poor Dave.

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