"Crank up the O" might be the rallying cry of Payson faithful this evening when the Longhorn football team plays host to the Arizona Boys Ranch Spartans.
Fans didn't get to see much of the power option offense last week in a season opening 6-6 tie with the Safford Bulldogs when positive yards came grudgingly in bits and pieces.
The best the Horns could do was 101 yards rushing and 88 passing, which is a far cry from the lofty numbers the team posted during last year's 13-0 state championship season.
But some of those 1998 victories were over patsy teams with inept defenses that allowed the Horns to run out to 50-point-plus victory margins. Against Miami, Payson breezed to a 69-0 win.
Safford, which entered the game fourth-ranked in the state against the second-ranked Longhorns, was anything but a Miami clone, especially on defense.
After commending the Dogs' play Friday evening, Horn coach Jim Beall said he expects Safford to do well in the South Division. "They will be in the state tournament," he said.
Only a couple of years ago, tonight's foe, Arizona Boys Ranch, would have been every bit as formidable as Safford. But legal woes due to the death of a student have reduced the Ranch to a skeleton of what it once was.
ABR officials were able to keep the football program alive this summer with a handful of players, but the Spartans are expected to field an inexperienced team with almost no veterans.
Unless the Spartan staff has gone on an expansive recruiting trip to California -- where most of the reform school's former players originated from -- tonight's clash could be a walk in the park for the Longhorns.
The Horn coaching staff is always looking to improve the team's ground game, and for that to happen the offensive line must open holes for fullback Justin Kaufmann. Against Safford, he was the team's leading rusher but tallied only 28 yards on the night, 11 of which came on one run.
Tailbacks Jon Pelto and Levi Armstrong will also need some running room, as will quarterback Kyle Conway on the option play.
There's little doubt that the Horns need to turn up the offensive heat for the team to make another run at state.
The Horn defense gave only 129 yards of total offense against Safford while creating two turnovers. But the name of the game in prep football is weekly improvement, and defensive coordinator Mike Wheelis will be asking for even better play against the Spartans.
After last week's tie, Wheelis praised defensive ends Sterling White and Levi Armstrong for helping contain the Dogs' Wing-T offense.
If ABR brings to town any resemblance of the speed the team once had, that pair will again be called upon to turn in sweeps to where help is awaiting from the linebackers.
Since ABR and Payson are no longer members of the Central Division, as both were the past two years, tonight's game is a non-divisional matchup. Payson is now a member of the East, ABR of the South. Game time is 7 p.m.
Kids can get a kick out of Elks shootout
Doug Disbrow has returned for a second year to oversee the Payson Elks Lodge's annual soccer kick contest. This year's edition will be held Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon on the Rumsey Park multipurpose field.
Boys and girls ages 13 years and under are eligible to participate. Disbrow says there is no minimum age -- if you can kick a soccer ball you can enter.
The youngsters will be divided into age/sex groups for the competition. Those 10 years and under will try to kick through goal posts that have five different size openings. The smaller the size, the more points the kick is worth.
The older youngsters, 10 through 13 years, kick at a full-sized goal that is scored in six sections. The smaller the area where the kick travels, the more points it's worth.
Disbrow said the younger players can score kicks on the ground, but the older players must elevate their kicks over a board.
Trophies will be awarded to four age-group winners at about noon. The winners also earn the right to advance to the Elks' district contest Sept. 19 in Payson.
The event is free of charge, but show up on time tomorrow at 8 a.m to register.
Credit for Kids
The Payson School District's Stadium Renovation Committee has been working diligently to spearhead improvement projects on the PHS football stadium and track. Much of their funding will come from the Credit for Kids tax program.
If you're interested in helping the project, check out the free edition of the 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.
Town of Payson Recreation Coordinator Beth Kreider is strongly urging youngsters who intend on participating in the NFL Gatorade Punt, Pass and Kick competition to register before event check-in time, from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 23. Registration may be completed in advance at the P&R offices located at Green Valley Park.
The competition will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the Payson High School baseball field. The event is free and open to boys and girls ages 8 to 15.
The top finishers from each of the eight age groups in the Payson competition earn the right to advance to the sectional shootout. Winners there could end up at the Arizona Cardinals Team Championships, to be held at the Cardinals vs Eagles NFL game Dec. 5 in Sun Devil Stadium.
Registration for the adult fall coed volleyball league will be Sept. 7-17 in the P&R offices, located in Green Valley Park. Play will begin in October and continue through late November.
The registration fee is $150. Call 474-5242, ext. 7 for more information.