After a hard-fought, scoreless game that went into two 10-minute overtimes, Payson and Sedona were crowned Class 1A-3A Arizona state boys soccer co-champions.
In the state finale Saturday afternoon at Tucson Udall Park, Longhorn goal keeper Mark Hillegas was the stopper Payson needed to keep the powerful Sedona offense at bay. Sedona which finished the season 19-0-1 outshot Payson 30-5. On every Scorpion attempt, however, Hillegas was there to keep the ball out of the net.
Sedona scored a goal about five minutes into the game, but the referee voided the shot on an offside penalty.
Following the game, coaches named Hillegas along with teammates Travis Sanders, Andrew Karlowski and Ryan Peters ? to the all-tournament team.
At the conclusion of the regular season two weeks ago, region coaches voted Sanders the Rim’s Most Valuable Player.
The Longhorns, who finished the season with 19-3-2 credentials, entered the state tournament as the Rim Region’s co-champion with a No. 3 seed.
After the three-way tie with Blue Ridge and Show Low, a coin toss was held to determine the region’s three seeds to state.
Show Low won the toss and took the first seed. Blue Ridge advanced as the region runner-up and Payson fell to third.
The less-than-advantageous state seed did little to slow the Longhorns.
In the opening round Nov. 1 at Udall Park, the Horns eliminated Lourdes Catholic with a 3-0 victory.
Nov. 2, Payson thumped Desert Christian 3-1.
The Longhorns returned to Tucson Nov. 8 to play in the final four against Rim rival Show Low.
In regular season play, the Cougars had dealt Payson its only region loss. This time out, the Horns turned the tables on the Cats with a 2-0 victory.
That win propelled Payson into the state title game against undefeated Sedona.
In some games that end in an overtime tie, a shoot out is held to determine an eventual winner. In a state championship, however, games are limited to 100 minutes of play and no provisions are made for shoot outs.
Following the game, coach Roger Wholly made good on a promise he had made to his players early in the season he shaved his head.
“I told them if we won (state), I’d shave my head,” Wholly said.
“So I did Saturday afternoon, after the game.”
The co-championship was the first state title in the history of the sport at Payson High School.
The team will gather one final time at its annual season-ending awards ceremony. ‘
Wholly said he wasn’t sure of the date but said his choice would be during the week leading up to Thanksgiving.
When he and athletic director Dave Bradley settle on a date, a public announcement will be made.