Longhorn Football Booster Club In The Works

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The Payson High School football program might soon be bolstered by a booster club that plans to help the Longhorns become a state playoff contender every year.

The new booster club is being founded by local businessman Eric Santana and former Payson mayor Craig Swartwood.

Santana has long been involved in local sports as an officer and coach in the Payson Youth Football Association. Swartwood, a local Realtor, has been an assistant basketball coach at Payson High and is an avid supporter of youth sports.

According to Santana, several other local residents have expressed an interest in helping form the booster club.

The booster club, Santana said, will try to generate "full community support for the football team so that it can become a No. 1 program."

Coach Steve Saban, who last season led the Longhorns to an East region third-place finish and to the state quarterfinals, said the booster club is a necessity. "It is absolutely needed to get where we want to be," he said. "We have some great people who all have an interest in doing the right things for the kids."

One of the first objectives of the club, Santana said, will be to study other successful programs in the state like Lakeside Blue Ridge to see what is being done to help their football programs remain consistently successful.

"Then we would try to bring that to Payson," he said.

But before any other prep programs are copied, the booster club has already pinpointed aspects of the current program they'd like to see improved.

Among them is the off-season weight-training program.

"We'd like to see it improved by being open more hours, more staffing and better facilities if that's what it needs," Santana said. To make those improvements, substantial funds would have to be raised by the new group.

"We have some ideas for doing that," Santana said.

Also on the agenda would be the sponsoring of other off-season activities like passing league tournaments, summer camps and possibly a Bigger, Faster, Stronger weight-training seminar. Bigger, Faster, Stronger is a Brigham Young University-based training program that sends its student athletes into communities to teach its weight lifting techniques.

Both Santana and Swartwood agree they would also like to see more continuity in the Payson High coaching staff.

In the past 15 years, Payson has had seven head football coaches. At Blue Ridge, Paul Moro has held the coaching reins since 1984.

The first order of business for the club will be an inaugural meeting at 6 p.m., Jan. 24 in the classroom adjacent to the boys weight room in old PHS gymnasium.

Club organizers are in the process of calling parents and inviting them to the meeting.

If the club becomes a reality as projected, it would meet "once a month to stay on top of things," Santana said.

Call Santana at 474-1775 or Swartwood at 474-4554 for more information.

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