The man who led Payson High School to three consecutive playoff appearances and to the state championship in 1998 has been appointed the inaugural football coach at soon-to-be-completed Higley High School.
Jim Beall, the Longhorn coach from 1995 until his resignation at the conclusion of the 1999 campaign, has resigned his teaching position at Rim Country Middle School to accept the coaching position.
In addition to serving as the head football coach, Beall will teach physical education at the school.
At RCMS, Beall taught a special needs classroom that was actually housed on the campus of PHS.
Although he enjoyed the classroom, returning to his college major physical education with an emphasis on strength training is a more comfortable and challenging setting for Beall.
"I'll be back in the weight room ... where I began," he said.
When he arrived in Payson six years ago, Beall said he was intent on staying in Payson until his retirement. However, the opportunities at Higley were too enticing to pass up.
"The whole situation is the right fit for me and, hopefully, my family," he said.
As the first head coach of the school, he'll have the rare opportunity to build the football program from the ground up. The tradition, the uniforms, the athletic philosophy and the staff will all be of his choosing.
"Every coach dreams about doing that and few ever have the opportunity," he said.
The new coach has already set his sights on some promising young assistants he'd like to hire but he's not ready to release names until they are officially hired.
The school, which has chosen "Knights" as its team name, will feature all four classes freshmen through seniors next season.
"It will probably be a small senior class though," Beall said. Located in a rural but rapidly growing East Valley area, the new school's open enrollment policy could draw students from Chandler, Queen Creek and Gilbert.
During its first two years of existence, the Knights will compete in the Class 3A West Division. Also in that division is Mohave River Valley High School whose head coach Curt LeBlanc is Beall's former PHS assistant.
If growth projections for the Higley school district hold true, the Knights will probably move up to 4A or 5A after a few seasons.
Although Beall has opted to leave the Rim country, he has many fond memories of his stay here.
"I love Payson," he said. "It has been a good situation."
Some of his favorite recollections will be of his time on the gridiron.
"We spent a lot of years building the (football) program," he said.
After unexpectedly resigning two years ago, Beall admitted he missed the close contact coaches have with their athletes.
In Higley, he said, "I'll have the opportunity to be around kids more."
During his tenure at Payson, Beall guided the Longhorns to the state semifinals in 1997, the state title in 1998, and a first round state berth in 1999.
In 1998, he was named the state's Coach of the Year.
Prior to arriving in Payson, he coached the Snowflake Lobos to a pair of state championships in the early 1990s.
Beall has also served successful coaching stints in Mesa, Oklahoma and California.