Hardt Ready To Coach At Round Valley

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Lady Longhorn basketball coach Shaun Hardt will soon resign his position to become head football coach at Round Valley High School in Springerville/Eagar.

The resignation, which was submitted last week to Payson Unified School District Superintendent Herb Weissenfels, will be acted upon at the July 1 school board meeting.

Once it is officially accepted, Hardt will be free to sign a contract with Round Valley.

Last basketball season, as the Lady Longhorn's second-year head coach, Hardt led the team to one of the best records, 21-8, in the history of PHS girls basketball.

The team finished as the East region runner-up, won the River Valley Pepsi Cola Shootout tournament, finished second at the Payson Holiday Hoops tournament and advanced to the 3A state tournament quarterfinals before being eliminated by eventual tournament finalist Chandler Seton.

At the conclusion of the campaign, Hardt called it "the best season I have ever had the privilege of being a part of."

Hardt's teams were known for their hard-nosed defense.

The past season, the Lady Horn's pressing style of defense held opponents to less than 40 points in 13 games. In five other games, foes were held to less than 45 points.

The team, Hardt said, "played some of the best defense I have ever seen."

In 2001, under the tutelage of Hardt, the Lady Horns played their way to East region runner-up honors and to the state tournament. In a first round game played in Flagstaff, the Lady Horns lost 51-33 to Ganado.

During the course of his two-year tenure, Hardt coached several of his players to postseason honors.

Among the award winners were Reanna Martinez, Brandi Waugh, Trista Carlton, Haylee Huff and the coach's daughter, Whitney Hardt.

Had coach Hardt chosen to return to the Lady Longhorn program, he would have had at his disposal a stable of talented veterans including Ashli Herrera, Laura Crabtree, Tanya Davis, Huff and Carlton.

In addition to his basketball coaching duties at PHS, Hardt was an assistant track and field coach.

Hardt had long expressed a desire to coach football and had applied for the Payson High School varsity position following Mike Wheelis' resignation in 2001. Steve Saban eventually was appointed head coach.

Hardt also will be resigning as an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Rim Country Middle School

The road ahead

In Round Valley, Hardt faces a tremendous rebuilding job.

A state powerhouse in the 1970s, '80s and early '90s under the guidance of Tot Workman, the Elks have since fallen upon hard times.

Last season, the once-proud Elks won just one East region game and were the whipping boys for most all opponents.

One of RV's defeats was a 34-14 loss to Payson.

Former Elk coach John Dryden became the subject of a band of Eagar-Springerville malcontents who chose to express their dissatisfaction from the stands, on personal computers and in the community's watering holes.

The fans dissatisfaction with Dryden turned ugly after a 21-14 early season loss to Show Low. In the game, RV dominated the first half, building a 14-0 lead.

Show Low came roaring back in the third quarter to tie the contest 14-14.

After a wild and woolly fourth quarter that saw both teams on the edge of a brawl and at least one player ejected, the contest was sent into overtime. Show Low took first possession and scored on third down.

During its subsequent four downs, RV couldn't punch the ball into the end zone.

Although that disappointing defeat helped lead to Dryden's demise, it was a 49-7 loss to St. Johns that was the most disheartening.

In Apache country, the rivalry between Round Valley and St. Johns is the stuff legends are made of.

The saying goes that when the game is played in Eagar, the entire community of St. Johns on game night will be empty.

When the clash is held in St. Johns, Eagar will be a ghost town that evening.

Most everyone in the neighboring communities attends the games.

Some compare the intensity of the showdowns to that of the annual Arizona State-Arizona football game.

If Hardt can somehow maneuver the Elks in position to beat St. Johns, he'll most likely gain the acceptance of the entire town.

Hardt was in Eagar with his family when the Rodeo Fire broke out and Highway 260 was closed. He was not available for comment, but according to his uncle, Chuck Hardt, Shaun will be teaching weight-training at RVHS.

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