The gridiron prestige of the 3A East (White Mountain) region took a pounding Saturday afternoon on the campus of Round Valley High School in Eagar.
Participating in a rare triple-header in RV's ensphere dome, coach Tim McBurney's Class 4A Tempe Buffaloes humbled 3A East defending state champion and top-ranked Show Low 49-7.
Tempe's thumping of the highly regarded Cougars all but ends speculation that the best teams in the 3A conference can play on even terms with the 4A "big schools."
Show Low's loss also tarnishes the East's reputation a mystique some call it for producing some of the state's best football teams.
Entering the clash, Show Low was stamped one of the most talented in the state regardless of school size classification.
With strong-armed quarterback Matt Belshe calling signals behind a college-sized line, hopes were high in the White Mountains that Show Low could corral the Buffs.
But, Belshe who has signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Arizona was totally stymied by the hounding Buffalo defense.
Even when McBurney chose to use reserves during second-half play, Tempe which finished 4-6 last year continued to dominate play.
It's foolish to believe that 3A schools can play on even terms with the big schools on a weekly basis simply because small schools lack depth on their rosters.
But on any given game day, the top teams in the 3A conference especially those in the rugged East were projected to have the talent and coaching to hold their own against larger schools.
But with Show Low's loss, small school fans will have to wait for another gridiron day to prove their teams are the equal of 4A and 5A teams.
Lookin' for answers
Could the unexpected demise of Show Low in Eagar be attributed to a recent head coaching change on the Cougar staff?
In light of a lackluster showing by the Cougars, evidence points to just such an occurrence.
In July, veteran coach Bill Morgan who led the cats to the state championship last year resigned his position.
He was immediately replaced by former Round Valley and Heber Mogollon coach Tim Slade.
The late coaching change couldn't have done anything to help the Cougar cause in its quest to play on even terms with Tempe.
Since the $11-million ensphere was completed in 1991, East region teams including Payson have taken playing in the "Dome on the Range" for granted.
But players on big school teams from the Valley almost never have the opportunity to play indoors in a facility that seats 3,000 spectators.
It must have been a rare treat for the Tempe athletes to compete in the cool comfort of a facility that is the envy of some college programs.
Town of Payson Parks and Recreation Department-sponsored coed volleyball begins play Oct. 2. Registration will be held Sept. 5 through 15 at the Parks and Rec office at Green Valley Park. For more information, call 474-5242, ext. 7.