"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
It's an age-old coaching adage, often used to fire up struggling athletes.
That bit of jock philosophy could appropriately be applied to the efforts of the Longhorns softball and baseball teams in crucial wins over the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets Tuesday afternoon in Lakeside.
Both Payson squads traveled East to the Jackets' homeland knowing they needed victories to stay alive in the race for berths into the state championship tournament.
The baseball team responded to the adversity with a 14-6 victory; the Lady Horns improved their chances for an advantageous seed to state with a come from behind 8-6 triumph.
With only one game remaining in the regular season -- today in Show Low -- both teams are in positions to advance to state.
The most secure seed belongs to the Lady Longhorns who, with a win in Show Low, could advance to the big show as a two-seed.
A loss to the Cougars, however, would send the Horns packin' to the state tournament site in Phoenix as a three-seed.
What's happenin' here?
The baseball team's season-ending fate is much more tangled. In fact, no official exists in the region who can accurately predict what will unfold as the East struggles to send its four seeds to the tournament.
Let coach Ted Pettet try to unravel the mystery:
"This win (over Blue Ridge) coupled with Round Valley's loss to Snowflake guarantees us no less than a playoff to go to the state tournament," he said.
"A win Friday (against Show Low) makes Snowflake the champion. This coupled with a Blue Ridge win puts us in (the state tournament) for sure and coin tosses would determine whether or not we are a two, three or four seed to state."
Should Payson lose to Show Low today and Round Valley beat Blue Ridge in their finale, a log jam in the final standings would result.
If that scenario unfolds, Pettet says, it "would throw us in a three-way tie with Round Valley and Blue Ridge and make Show Low the two-seed."
The method of untangling the mess was a continuing controversy at press time.
Pettet contends that his team should be third seed to state by virtue of the Horns sweep of Round Valley and split with Blue Ridge.
However, some athletic directors around the region didn't buy into Pettet's way of thinking and balked at it, lobbying instead for a three-way playoff possibly early next week.
In an attempt to come to some type of solidarity, a polling of ADs is scheduled to take place if a three-way tie does occur.
A third scenario for regular season's end that would result in fewer headaches for regional ADs would be for Payson to lose to Show and Blue Ridge beat Round Valley.
"That would make us the fourth seed to state," Pettet said.