Coaches face difficult decisions every time they devise a starting lineup.
Seldom do two high school head coaches have the same dilemma. However, such was the case for Payson High baseball coach Teddy Pettet and softball coach Will Dunman Tuesday.
Both coaches have guided their teams to the final game of the season in which the winner will be named 3A region champion.
The road to region glory goes through Blue Ridge and Tuesday's games were crucial if the teams were to survive.
In building their powerhouse teams, both Pettet and Dunman have strict team rules about starting players if they do not attend practice the day before a game.
Monday, April 22, was the self-proclaimed ditch day for Payson seniors the day before the all-important Blue Ridge showdown.
When Pettet and Dunman showed up to practice that afternoon, they were advised by the athletic director that any seniors who ditched school would not be allowed to practice.
Dunman's five seniors have led his Lady Longhorns in starting positions during the entire season. They filled key positions at first, second and third base as well as shortstop and center field.
They also participated in ditch day.
Many coaches, going into the last week of league play, facing the final two games that would determine a region champion, would bend their rules and allow the seniors to play.
After all, winning is what it's all about.
In Dunman's case, Payson's softball team has never been in the position to vie for first or second. They have always trailed behind past state champions Show Low and Snowflake. There is no doubt it was a gut-wrenching decision when he opted to pull three junior varsity players up to the varsity level against Blue Ridge and left his seniors on the bench, along with one junior who had also missed school on Monday.
He not only sat the six starters, they did not see one inning of action during the entire game. The girls did prove they are team leaders, accepting the punishment as they supported their younger classmates from the confines of the dugout.
Dunman fielded a team consisting of four freshmen, three sophomores and two juniors, knowing full well that if he lost to Blue Ridge with the rookie team on the field, Show Low would win the region.
Such was also the case for Pettet, who was not only risking the region championship, but a record-setting 200th coaching career win. Pettet, who is blessed with a 15-man roster, did not have to rob players from the jayvee team. It also helped that not all his seniors honored ditch day.
Pettet and Dunman should be commended for not sacrificing their ethics and integrity. It seems, many coaches these days have lost sight of what coaching today's youth is all about. They abandon their image as a leader and role model for the "win."
There is no doubt in my mind that the decision to adhere to their team rules is what produced stellar performances by the young players who garnered victories for both teams over Blue Ridge. The underclassmen stepped up to the plate with an offense and defense that sent Payson's baseball and softball teams to the championship round, today (April 26) against Show Low.
A win over Show Low would be the Longhorns' second victory of the week the display of integrity and honor was their first ... and in life it will prove to be a gold medal.