Silky Sullivan was the thoroughbred that fell far behind the pack in the early stages of a horse race, only to turn on his blistering speed and overtake the front runners.
At the Class 3A state championship golf tournament last week near Show Low, the Payson High School golf team bore a striking resemblance to Silky.
After the first day of play on Torreon golf course, the Longhorns trailed defending state champion Safford by eight strokes 315-323. The deficit was a lot to make up, Horn coach Bret Morse said.
But at a team meeting that evening, PHS players rationalized that if each one of them outperformed their Safford counterparts by a mere two strokes, the Bulldog cushion would be erased.
"We knew (overtaking Safford) wasn't going to be easy, but we really wanted to win (the state title) and were willing to work hard," Tyson McKee, the team's only senior, said.
The Horns rallied past Safford on the second day 302-318 to win the school's first state golf championship.
The final tally revealed the Horns captured the crown by eight strokes (633-625).
According to Morse, there was no secret to the furious second-round comeback the team members simply strung together their best effort of the campaign.
"We set a state record (297) this season, but this was even more impressive than that," the coach said.
For McKee, the team surge could be attributed to concentration. "We were much more focused," he said.
With a two-over-par 73 on the Silver Creek course, McKee engineered the Longhorn express. His two-day score of 149 was good enough to earn him state silver-medalist honors one stroke behind Safford's Brandon Martin.
Highly promising PHS freshman Billy Bob Hoyt one of the team maintstays all season carded a 75.
Brandan Kelley and Tyler Shrum both contributed 77s to the Longhorn cause.
"Our four scores in the 70s were really hard to beat," said Morse.
In the "play five, keep four" score tournament format, the Horns high of 84 was dropped.
On the first day of the tournament, Hoyt and McKee were the Horns' top guns with identical cards of 76.
Kelley turned in an 83 and Shrum an 88.
That showing, Morse said, wasn't a poor one but "we just didn't play as well as we're capable of."
Following the awards ceremony in which the team was presented with the state championship trophy, the players dedicated the victory to McKee, who has been a varsity team member for four years and will continue his career next season at Adams State in Colorado.
"That made me feel really good because we've been a close team all year long," McKee said.
Had it not been for a "never-say-die attitude" from a group of determined athletes, there wouldn't have been a state crown to dedicate to the departing senior.