The coach who led the Longhorn soccer team to statewide prominence has resigned his position.
Dave Greiner says he stepped aside in order to devote more time to his duties as senior pastor at Mountain Bible Church.
"The church has grown to the point that finding the time away to coach was difficult; coaching is very time consuming," he said.
The decision to leave when the program was just reaching its peak was a gut-wrenching one for Greiner.
"I know how much I'll miss it," he said. "Going to the games and just watching will be difficult. But my goal is to be real quiet, observe and support."
Greiner's transition from coach to spectator will be doubly difficult because of his long relationship with the senior players who will graduate this spring.
"A lot of those seniors made varsity their first year and I've been with them since. Our relationship is special," he said.
Makin' 'em winners
Greiner leaves the program only months after helping the Horns post their best season ever.
Last fall, the team became a recognized state power, playing its way to the elite final four of the Class 3A tournament.
One year earlier, Greiner coached the team to the state quarter finals.
In 1997, the coach guided the team to its inaugural berth in the state tournament.
"We were a game better every year," Greiner said.
Although he had considerable coaching experience when he moved to Payson from California in 1994, becoming a high school head coach was never Greiner's goal. He said one of the reasons he got involved in what was then a fledgling prep program founded by Alfonzo Munoz was to insure that his daughter, Davi Anne, had the opportunity for a quality high school soccer experience.
"There were no girls in the program at the time," he said. Under his direction, the program turned coed and Davi Anne played as a goalie on the jayvee team.
"We had about four girls," he said.
After coaching the jayvees as an unpaid volunteer during the 1995 season, he took over the reins of the varsity program, replacing Munoz who resigned.
Later, the girls' program received an unexpected boost when Linda Gibson signed on as a teacher at Payson High. With the help of Greiner, Gibson began a varsity girls team that has since flourished. Last year, the roster sported 16 players and is expected to draw even more next season.
"She's done a phenomenal job," Greiner said.
The presence of Gibson allowed Greiner to spend more time with the boys' varsity team that was beginning to show signs of maturity.
The real difference between today's players and those of the early years, he said, is the discipline change. "They realized that it wasn't recreation anymore but a varsity sport."
The growth of the players peaked last fall when Greiner discovered that he suddenly had less drill sergeant duties and more time to plan and prepare.
"They came ready and conditioned to play. I could spend time on plays and field strategy," he said.
With Greiner gone, Payson High Athletic Director Barry Smith has begun the search to find his successor. Smith's said it will be difficult to find a replacement as qualified as Greiner, but at least one candidate has surfaced. The AD is unsure of when a new soccer coach will be appointed.