The football coach who led the Longhorns to three consecutive postseason tournaments and the 1998 state title has resigned his coaching position at Payson High School.
Citing an increasing classroom workload that restricts the time and energy he can put into the football program, Jim Beall submitted his letter of resignation Thursday morning to district superintendent Herb Weissenfels.
Beall said the decision was a gut-wrenching one, but one that he said he's now comfortable with.
After learning of the resignation, PHS Athletic Director Barry Smith lauded the former coach for "putting his heart and soul into the program."
PHS senior Bryan Zumbro, the starting center on the past two Longhorn teams, said Beall will be missed. "It's sad to see him go. He's a very good coach and has a lot of good ideas for the program," he said.
As a teacher in a special needs classroom at Rim Country Middle School, Beall has one of the most demanding jobs in the education profession. Those requirements coupled with the year-round effort it takes to maintain a state-class football program had become overwhelming tasks, Beall said.
His resignation marks the third time a varsity head coach has stepped down this school year.
Earlier, boys' soccer coach Dave Greiner resigned saying he needed to devote more time to his duties as pastor at Mountain Bible Church.
Only last month, highly successful Lady Longhorn basketball coach Jerry Daniels submitted his resignation to Smith. Daniels said he wanted to have more time to spend with his family and two sons who are involved in the PHS sports program.
With Beall's resignation, the vacated head coaching position will soon be opened to applicants, Smith said.
However, Smith has long maintained that filling high school coaching positions is much different than in college, where sports are the only duties.
To hire a prep coach, the school must also have a teaching or administrative post available.
The highlight of Beall's career at Payson High School probably occurred in 1998 when he led the Longhorns to a 13-0 record that culminated with the Class 3A state championship.
The finale, played in front of a raucous overflow crowd at Mesa College, pitted the underdog Longhorns against four-time defending state champion Blue Ridge which was on a 64-game winning streak.
One year earlier, in the state quarterfinals, Payson had lost 20-14 to Blue Ridge to wrap up a 9-2 campaign.
But in the second meeting of the two powerhouses, Payson roared back from a seven-point half-time deficient to whip the state number-one ranked Yellow Jackets 29-20.
The win is considered one of the biggest upsets in Arizona prep football history.
Beall agrees ending the Jacket's streak and winning the school's first state title since 1981 was a defining moment.
However, he also points to 1995 --his first year at the helm of the team --as a year of accomplishments, even though the Horns finished 0-9.
The following season, the Horns once again struggled in the win-lose column, but the seeds of success were sown when Beall opted to nurture his younger players knowing they represented the future of the Longhorn program.
"We were still putting in a new system and had a lot of young kids," Beall said.
Although the sophomores of that season didn't often enjoy the thrill of victory, they returned the following two seasons to lead the Longhorns to the state shoot-out.
One member of the 1996 kiddie corps, quarterback Hunter Walden, often said during his senior championship season that the pounding he took as a sophomore served as constant motivation to succeed.
Last year, Beall molded a team with much less depth than in 1997 and 1998. After two late season losses to Show Low and Blue Ridge, the team finished third in the East and earned a berth into the state tournament. There, the team dropped a first-round match to the Globe Tigers.
The highlight of the campaign occurred in the regular season when the Horns pulled off a feat no other varsity team in the 30-plus year history of PHS football had been able to do -- beat Snowflake. On a cool crisp October night in Longhorn stadium, Payson scored a touchdown on the game's final play to end the Lobos dreaded gridiron supremacy.
Ironically, only years earlier when Beall was head coach at Snowflake, he'd helped keep the Lobo streak alive whipping the Horns in both 1990 and 1991.
In addition to the state championship at Payson, Beall coached the Lobos to state crowns in both 1992 and '93. In 1991, he took Snowflake to the state semi-finals.
Sandwiched between his stints in Snowflake and Payson, Beall worked as a head coach in Oklahoma.
Arizona coaches have consistently acknowledged his accomplishments by naming him either regional or state coach of the year on seven occasions. He's also been tapped to coach in three North vs. South All-Star games.
Those honors, Beall said, are flattering but he's equally proud that several of his former players have gone onto the college level, and the school program is now drawing record numbers of participants.
In 7th through 12 grade, almost 200 student/athletes played football last season.
A solid coach
Beall's reputation in prep coaching circles is one of a tireless worker whose attention to detail produces fundamentally sound teams.
He's also known to emphasize citizenship among his charges, asking them to become good people, not just good players.
Assistant coach Jack Morris said the staff stressed the priorities of family, church, school and then football.
Beall will remain at RCMS as a classroom teacher and said he has not given up on the idea of someday returning to coaching, except maybe in the future it would be on the freshman level.