Sun Devils Scrimmage Sunday At Tontozona

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The highlight of Arizona State University's 10-day football stay at Camp Tontozona will be the annual fan scrimmage at 10:15 a.m. Sunday.

The controlled scrimmage, which is to the public, will last about two hours.

Since there is no seating at the mountain camp 17 miles northeast of Payson, diehard fans might want to arrive early, about 9:30 a.m., when the players take to the field for stretching.

The early birds usually get the best standing locations near the sidelines and the end zones.

Immediately after the scrimmage, the players depart Tontozona for Payson where they are scheduled for a 2 p.m. visit to Taylor Pool.

In years past, the Sunday scrimmages have traditionally drawn thousands of fans eager for a first-hand look at the Sun Devils. But this year, ASU is coming off a 4-7 record (1-7 in the PAC-10) and the popularity of the team could be at an all-time low. It's anyone's guess how many fans will show up for the weekend scrimmage, but its almost a sure thing the event won't draw the crowds it did in 1996, when Jake Plummer was calling signals for the Rose Bowl-bound Devils. A crowd of more than 8,000 showed up at that scrimmage.

The Sun Devils arrived at Tontozona Tuesday for a late-afternoon practice. session. Two-a-day practices were held the next three days.

Tomorrow (Saturday), practices will be held at 8:40 a.m. and 4 p.m. The afternoon session will be held on the new multipurpose field at Rumsey park.

Fans who want to avoid the crowds that could show up for Sunday's event might opt to attend one of Saturday's practices.

The sessions are not usually controlled scrimmages, but due to the lack of crowds, fans can roam the sidelines more freely and views are not obstructed.

Aug. 12, the Sun Devils practice at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The morning session is at Tontozona and the afternoon at Rumsey Park.

The practice schedule for Aug. 13 is practices at 8:40 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The team takes to the field once on Aug.14 , at 8:40 a.m., before returning to Tempe where it will resume training in Sun Devil Stadium and on Bill Kajikawa field.

In the event of rain at Tontozona, the practice schedule could change or sessions be canceled.

At the Rim country camp, coach Dirk Koetter will be trying to shake off the effects of a five-game losing streak.

Since the Sun Devils open the season against highly regarded Nebraska, breaking the streak could be a tall order for the second-year coach.

The Nebraska vs. Arizona State game, at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, can be seen at 6:45 p.m. Aug. 24 on ESPN TV.

After facing the Cornhusker juggernaut, ASU plays five of its next six games in Sun Devil stadium and does not face a team picked in the PAC-10's top five until the second half of the season.

Since the Devils are projected to start 18 underclassmen and the starting offense does not include a senior, the schedule makers must have been smiling on Koetter.

One of the Tontozona keys to getting the Devils back on the winning track might be improving the team's defense.

Koetter's much maligned 4-2-5 defense gave up 39 points a game in PAC-10 play last season.

At Tontozona, the football purist might have one eye on the defensive side of the ball seeing if the Sun Devils are making any changes.

To get to Camp Tontozona, follow Highway 260 to Kohl's Ranch. After crossing the Tonto Creek Bridge, the turn into Camp Tontozona is one mile past the fire station turnoff of the right side of the road. A small private parking lot is about 300 yards from the gate.

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