They are not yet etched in stone, but the Longhorn fall sports schedules are taking shape, Payson High School Athletic Director Dave Bradley said.
Since last school year, Bradley and his staff have been formulating the agendas for football, volleyball, cross country, girls soccer and boys soccer.
According to Arizona Interscholastic Association regulations, practices for all Class 3A prep sports may begin Aug. 6.
Which means, PHS athletes will no longer undergo the dreaded two-a-day practices that have been standard preseason fare since the first forward pass was thrown.
With the new school-year schedule adopted last spring, classes also will begin Aug. 6, which will eliminate morning practice time. Coaches could opt to hold sessions before school begins, but Bradley says he has not been notified of any such practices.
Newly-appointed head football coach Steve Saban said he will try to make up for the lost two-a-day practice time by extending after- school sessions and by holding a high school camp from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 30 to Aug. 2.
Applications for the camp are available at Payson High School. The fee is $50 per camper.
In an effort to better prepare her athletes for the demands of rugged East region play, first-year Lady Longhorn coach Chris Schwind has been hosting informal summer practice sessions twice a week.
Also, Schwind conducted a youth camp in Wilson Dome last week that drew 30-plus elementary and middle school youngsters.
Schwind will make her head coaching debut Aug. 28 in Higley. Game time is 6 p.m.
One of the highlights of the campaign will be the Payson Invitational, to be held Sept. 7 and 8 in Wilson Dome.
Annually, the tournament draws some of the best Class 3A teams in the state.
A top-four region finish would propel Schwind's crew into the state playoffs set for Oct. 26 and 27 at Blue Ridge High School in Lakeside.
Saban will have the opportunity to showcase his new charges at 7 p.m. Aug. 6 in a controlled scrimmage to be played at Phoenix Christian High School.
Because no scores will be kept and there is no kicking or punting in the scrimmages, the outing won't be a true test for Saban's first PHS team. But the clash against one of Class 2A's best gridiron programs will be a good opportunity for the new coach to test his players under fire.
The season opens in earnest at 7 p.m. Aug. 31 in St. Johns.
Although the Redskins are a 2A school, the game is almost always a test of the Horns' mettle.
Last season, the Redskins whipped Payson 14-7, then went on to advance to the 2A state finals.
Prep gridiron play continues each Friday evening until the season finale Oct. 26 against Show Low.
If Saban can guide the Horns to a top four finish in the East region, the team will earn the right to participate in the state tournament set to begin Nov. 2.
Coach Chuck Hardt's cross country team doesn't traditionally hold two-a-day practices, so the early school start shouldn't adversely affect his runners. During preseason in past years, he held morning practices when Rim country temperatures were a bit cooler.
Now, he'll be forced to hold arduous conditioning during much warmer after school sessions. The coach, who's won about every Coach of the Year honor doled out in the region, will have a full month to prepare his runners before the season opens Sept. 1 at the Peaks invitational in Flagstaff.
The boys and girls team make their Rim country debut Sept. 5 at the Payson Invitational
Boys and girls soccer
The Lady Longhorn soccer team returns under veteran coach Linda Gibson. The boys team, however, has a new coach in Roger Wholly who was appointed last spring to replace Byron Quinlan.
Both coaches begin after-school practice sessions Aug. 6 at Rumsey Park and on the PHS baseball and softball fields.
While all other sports at PHS participate in the East region, the soccer teams are entered in the loosely-knit White Mountain/Rim region that includes all the East schools plus Class 2A St. Johns.
Bradley expects the Horns to field jayvee and varsity teams in both boys and girls soccer. However, there have been no applicants for the vacant boys jayvee coaching position.
Wholly has indicated that if a coach cannot be found, the jayvee program might be canceled.
The boys' season kicks off at 1 p.m. Sept. 1 in Queen Creek.
Girls play begins at 6 p.m. Aug. 29 at Rumsey Park against St. Johns.
If the teams qualify for state, the tournament begins Oct. 26 and 27 at Udall Park and St. Gregory's school in Tucson.
Before the season
Athletes planning on participating in fall sports at PHS must have physical exam and parent permission slips on file in Bradley's office before they will be allowed to practice.
Schoolwide physical exams were given to students last spring.
For those who missed those exams, Bradley's best advice is to schedule one with their family doctor as soon as possible.
Once all the paperwork is completed, a "Blue Card" will be issued to athletes. The cards indicate to coaches that the teenager is eligible to practice.
Call 474-2233 for more information.