Warm Up The Windpipes, It's Playoff Time


The most exciting parts of the winter sports seasons are just around the corner.

They are the annual regional playoffs and state tournaments set to tip off next week in wrestling and boys and girls basketball. Participation in the tournaments is the dream of most every teenage athlete. From the onset of the season, athletes focus on someday being good enough to represent their school in the post season.

The height of achievement, which only a handful attain, is to be on a team that wins a state tournament. Adults need not be left out of the post season excitement. They can participate by traveling to the tournaments to support Payson's teams.

It's well known in coaching circles that young athletes usually play better when they are supported by the fans, parents and teachers from their home towns.

There's a little bit of ham in most every one and they like the stands full.

For so many years, Snowflake carried the legacy of sending throngs of fans to support Lobo teams. Snowflake's vociferous crowds were an invaluable ally that helped the Lobos attain the pinnacle of athletic success in the late '80s and early '90s.

I vividly recall Snowflake fans overflowed the Mesa Westwood stands at the 1986 state football championship game between Payson and the Lobos. The Rim country had a decent turnout of supporters, but it wasn't what the Lobos took to the game.

The Hopi and Navajo reservation basketball teams in the North annually draw 4,000 to 5,000 fans to their state tournament games. It's no coincidence that those teams usually end up winning the 3A boys and girls basketball championships.

In 1983, I was lucky enough to coach a Show Low High football team that beat Snowflake for the first time in the history of the two schools. After the game, our coaches attributed much of the upset to the huge crowd of Cougar fans that roared after every play. In those days, it was a rare occurrence for a Show Low crowd to outnumber a Snowflake contingent.

When the game was over, those Cougar fans many of whom were senior citizens participated in an impromptu victory parade from Show Low through the streets of Snowflake. Their unwavering support throughout the game was a tribute the coaches and players have never forgotten,

In Lakeside, that type of fan support has existed since the 1970s when then-coach Joe Girardi began molding the Yellow Jackets into football State championship contenders.

In upcoming issues of the Payson Roundup, we'll keep tabs on when and where Longhorn teams will be playing in regional and state tournament action.

That information should help PHS fans turn out in droves for those games.

If you go, you can bet the family farm coaches and players will be eternally grateful.

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