After taking a brief holiday recess, Payson High School winter sports teams are about to return to action.
During the next two months, the outcome of every match and game will go a long way in determining whether PHS teams attain their goals of eventually nailing down post-season honors.
In wrestling, the state top-ranked Longhorns are king of the hill and odds-on favorites to earn a sixth consecutive 3A championship.
The boys basketball team is off to a winning start but must fend off stiff competition from Snowflake, Blue Ridge, Show Low and Alchesay to claim a state tournament berth.
The Lady Longhorns, under first-year head coach Shaun Hardt, picked up valuable experience at the Holiday Hoops tournament last week. But, the girls must find the firepower and defense to defeat league-favorite Snowflake when the two teams meet for a second time Jan. 23.
Earlier this year, the Lobos whipped Payson 72-47.
The new year should turn into an exciting campaign for all Rim country sports fans.
One of the real problems 3A conference athletic directors, including Payson's Dave Bradley, will be dealing with in the new year is the realignment of regions and schools.
The problem began last fall when Holbrook was reassigned from the East region to the North.
With that move, Globe was to depart the South region to replace the Roadrunners in the East.
But, Globe officials balked at the move and appealed to the Arizona Interscholastic Association saying travel would be too extensive and expensive in the East.
Globe's appeal was upheld and the East was left with just six teams Blue Ridge, Snowflake, Payson, Show Low, Round Valley and Alchesay.
The North now has nine teams and both the South and East eight each.
The problem with the imbalance is that East athletic directors will face a daunting task in trying to fill football and basketball schedules.
The ADs will have to find four non-region football games and 10 non-region basketball contests to have a complete slate of games.
Bradley says finding those games would be a tough task for all of the East ADs.
Since 4A schools probably won't want to play 3A teams because it would do nothing towards improving the power ranking system in place in the conference, East ADs would probably have to turn to reservation teams to fill schedules.
Of course, that would mean even more hours on the road than the travel-weary East teams now face.
No solution to the problem has yet met the approval of all ADs in the 3A conference.