If you see Payson High School boys basketball coach Mike Loutzenheiser around town, offer him a little sympathy.
In a single practice session last week, Loutzenheiser’s newest edition of the Longhorns went from a talented region and state contender to a squad that could struggle for wins.
During one dreadful day, Loutzenheiser learned that he’d lost the services of Mike Barr, Waylon Pettet and Trevor LaHaye.
Barr is sidelined for the school year with a knee injury suffered in a state tournament football loss to Blue Ridge. Pettet has been dismissed from the squad for breaking school and team rules. LaHaye went down with a broken leg suffered in a preseason practice session.
Barr’s injury occurred when a Yellow Jacket player struck him in the knee with his helmet. “I wasn’t even around the play,” he said.
Barr was examined and will probably not have to undergo surgery.
The loss of Barr a 6-foot, 6-inch, 215-pound center/forward is especially damaging to Horn title hopes.
A two-year letter winner, Barr was projected to be one of the best low-post players in the state. Last summer at a San Diego basketball camp, Barr drew raves for his on-the-court abilities. During the summer hoop campaign, he also was the Horns’ leading rebounder and scorer.
Last season as a sophomore, Barr who was named All-East first team showed glimpses of being able to take over a game single-handedly.
At the end of the campaign, Loutzenheiser praised him “as a young player with so much to learn, but still the best big man in the region, if not the state.”
Without him in the lineup, the Horn offense and defense will be crippled severely.
The loss of Pettet is also a huge blow to the team. Like Barr, he was an All-East region first team player who might have been a shoo-in to win the honor a second successive time.
The 5-foot, 9-inch swingman, also a football and baseball star, was best known for his defense.
“He always drew the toughest defensive assignment and gave 100 percent,” Loutzenheiser said.
The loss of LaHaye, a varsity newcomer, will mean Loutzenheiser might have to elevate a jayvee player to varsity.
“We won’t have much depth without him, maybe not enough to even scrimmage,” the coach said.
Without the trio in the lineup, the Horns will rely on five players who spent most of their past summer fine-tuning their hardwood skills in tournaments and at camps. They are Derek Daniels, Nick Cassuto, Jake Swartwood, Nate Acord and Chris Donaldson.
In that crew, Daniels is the most experienced. At the conclusion of last season, region coaches awarded him honorable mention accolades. As the Longhorns’ point guard, he will be responsible for running the offense.
The Horns make their home debut at 7:30 p.m. today in Wilson dome against the Winslow Bulldogs. The game will be preceded by freshman and jayvee contests. The jayvees will play at 4 p.m. in the dome and the freshman at 7 p.m. in the old gym.