It's Official, Jackets Are State's Best

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Payson Longhorn football players can take solace in the fact it took the most dominating team in Arizona football history to eliminate them from the 2001 state tournament.

That loss, at Mesa College, occurred in second round play Nov. 9 when the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets came from behind to beat Payson 29-6.

Following the Jacket victory, Blue Ridge went on to humble Wickenburg 38-0 in state semifinals. On Saturday, at Tempe McClintock High, Blue Ridge capped its run to the state crown by out muscling previously undefeated Coolidge 58-8.

The win over Payson, by a 23-point margin, was one of the closest contests the powerful Yellow Jackets faced this season.

Entering the fourth quarter, Blue Ridge clung to a precarious 8-6 lead and was on the verge of suffering the biggest upset of the prep season. However, a series of Payson miscues helped fuel a late Jacket rally that kept Blue Ridge unbeaten and on track for the state crown.

The Yellow Jackets victory over Coolidge was its 99th win in the past 101 games. Powerful Blue Ridge has also appeared in eight consecutive state championship games and has won six of those encounters.

One of those losses was the 1998 state championship loss to Payson.

During Saturday's state triumph, the Jackets set a Class 3A scoring record of 663 points. The previous record of 633 was set in 1997 by Arizona Boys Ranch.

For Rim country fans, one of the highlights of Saturday's state championship showdown came at halftime when the Arizona Interscholastic Association honored all fall sports state winners in a "Parade of Champions."

Among those participating in the gold medal parade was the Lady Longhorn cross country team that two weeks ago ran its way to the 3A state crown.

The state win was the school's first in the sport of cross country.

According to AIA spokesman Barry Sollenberger, the Parade of Champions was originated two years ago as a way to honor the efforts of prep athletes.

The parade, he said, will likely become an annual event.

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