The Arizona Coaches Association has released its first rankings of the new season and the five-time defending state champion Longhorns hold down the top spot.
In the 3A poll, the Horns are ranked first, Rio Rico second and Eagar Round Valley third.
There shouldn't be much doubt Payson is more powerful than Round Valley since the Horns pummeled the Elks 62-19 Nov. 29.
Because Rio Rico is a member of the South region, the one- and two-ranked teams probably won't lock horns until the Feb. 9 and 10 state tournament.
The Horns will, however, take on the sixth-ranked Winslow Bulldogs in a regular season encounter. That clash, set for Jan. 10 in Winslow, is a three-way encounter involving Blue Ridge.
The season-opening rankings are based on the number of state placers the teams have returning from the previous year.
The Longhorn lineup sports six returning placers R.C. LaHaye, Caleb Miller, Levi Armstrong, Rocky Beery, Zach Lee and Aaron Bratholt.
Longtime Rim country sports fans will recall Joanne Winter as a former resident of East Verde Estates.
Winter, who died in 1996, is best remembered as a former professional baseball player who starred in the league that was featured in the hit movie "League of Their Own."
In the 1940s, Winter pitched for the Racine Belles in the Major League Girls Professional League and once set a record for pitching 63 consecutive scoreless innings.
In addition to her considerable baseball and softball skills, Winter was a standout golfer.
Along with Judy Whitehouse and Shirley Spork, Winter hosted the Diamonds in the Rough Golf School at Payson Golf Course for 10 years.
Winters was also a popular local golf instructor.
In 1971, Winter, then an LPGA pro, founded the Silver Belle Golf Tournament to encourage competition in the sport among young women amateurs.
Since its founding, the team has grown into one of the world's leading competitions for girls age 13-25. The tournament's unique format pairs players as young as 13 years with college players of equal skill level. The tournament is the only event of its size that offers the unique pairing.
The 30th Annual tournament will be held Dec. 28 through 30 at Arizona State University's Karsten Golf Course in Tempe. The fray is expected to draw 120 of the nation's top junior girls and golf players.
Since Winter's death, Cindy MacNider, LPGA member who is a teaching professional at American Golf's Continental Golf Course in Scottsdale, has taken over as tournament director.
"Our goal," she said, "is to continue the tradition established by Joanne Winter to offer the finest caliber of young players the opportunity to compete against their college idols."
The tournament, MacNider said, "is one of the most exciting events for amateurs in the country."