In a preseason preview of the Longhorn boys basketball team that appeared in the Nov. 17 issue of the Payson Roundup, I wrote that if the 2000-2001 team played well in the state semifinals at Northern Arizona University, the Horns would advance for the first time to the tournament finals in Phoenix Suns' America West Arena.
An alert reader, Dave Banbury, e-mailed a response, reminding me that the 1979 Payson High School boys team won the Class B state championship.
Banbury is correct, Payson has a crown to its credit, but what I was trying to point out, was that a Payson team hasn't played in the finals since the competition was moved to America West.
When Payson won the crown under Dave Bradley, the coach at the time, the state tournament was played on the Arizona State University campus.
Drop by Bradley's Payson High School office where he is now the school's athletic director and you'll see a team picture of that championship squad proudly displayed on his wall.
Ask Bradley who the players were on that team, and he'll rattle them off faster than Al Gore can say "recount."
Banbury, a member of the PHS Class of 1978, remembers Payson's championship squad as "a very underrated basketball team (that) swept through the state tournament and beat a highly favored Williams High School for the crown."
Also in the '70s, Banbury said, "(Payson) produced more than one state qualifier led by the likes of Lynn Pagan and Steve Welker."
It's still huge
There are those who say that because both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University football teams are wallowing through mediocre years, the luster of this long-lived rivalry has been tarnished.
Don't bet on that.
The showdown that pits the Sun Devils against the Wildcats is the biggest game of the year for state football fans, regardless of what happened earlier in the season.
If you've grown up in Arizona or attended one of the two universities, you've probably developed strong loyalties to one of the schools.
Few residents ride the fence when it's ASU vs. Arizona. There's too much bad blood between the schools dating back to the days when ASU was Arizona State College.
Some rivalries, like California vs. Stanford or Washington vs. Washington State, remain hospitable.
But that's not the case when the Devils and the Cats meet. The game is always a war that spills over into the stands and waterin' holes around the state.
Former ASU tight end Scott Veach (1990-92) said that after playing against the Wildcats, even driving through Tucson is distasteful.
To the winner goes braggin' rights for the year. The loser is usually left saying, "Wait until next year."
Kickoff time is 3 p.m. Friday in Tucson.