Payson High School's boys soccer team is walking tall on the campus. That's mostly because the team has strung together a 16-3-1 record that represents the best mark ever posted by a PHS soccer team.
Also building pride among the players is the Longhorns' 7-1 Rim region record which could earn the Longhorns a title when the final regular season standings are compiled later this week.
The Horns' only Rim loss this season was 4-3 to Show Low Sept 25. In that defeat, the Cougars scored the winning goal in the final second of play.
Almost as impressive as the Longhorns' sterling won-loss record is the offensive and defensive showing of the team. In Rim region play, Payson scored 51 goals and allowed only nine.
Coach Roger Wholly attributes that effort to a rock-solid defense led by Mark Hillegas, Andrew Karlowski, Will Gnagi, Daniel Reisdorf and Patrick Karlowski.
Payson might have nailed down what players, fans are coaches are hoping will be a region championship Oct. 22 with a 4-1 win over the homestanding St. Johns Redskins.
In the 10th minute of play, Payson was sent reeling by a Redskin goal. In an effort to generate more offense, coach Roger Wholly quickly substituted Derek Wimpee and Harley Taylor into the game. The substitutions paid dividends in the 30th minute when Taylor scored to tie the game at 1-1.
"Harley scored a brilliant goal that raised (our) level of play," the coach said.
Only a minute later, Trevor LaHaye scored on an assist from Darryl LeSueur to give the Longhorns their first lead of the game.
In the second half, LaHaye and Ryan Peters tallied insurance goals that helped nail down the triumph.
In junior varsity action, the Longhorns dropped a 3-1 decision to the Skins.
With a 7-1 region record, Payson wrapped up the regular season campaign tied with Show Low and Blue Ridge for the Rim title. The past weekend, a drawing was held in Snowflake to determine which teams would receive the first, second and third seeds.
The results of the drawing are in and Show Low will advance as No. 1, Blue Ridge will go as No. 2 and Payson has the third seed.
The Longhorns' open pursuit of the school's first state championship will take place at 6 p.m. Nov. 1 at Tucson Udall Park against the Desert Region's No. 3 finisher. Because the Desert has not yet wrapped up its regular season, the Horns' opponent will not be determined until today (Tuesday).