High school teams from around the state converge on Rumsey Park today (Friday) to participate in the Pioneer Title Agency Invitational boys soccer tournament.
Set to compete are Tucson Pusch Ridge, Snowflake, St. Johns, Phoenix Valley Lutheran, Benson and the homestanding Longhorns.
Tournament action kicked off this morning at 8 a.m., with Payson hosting Benson on the Rumsey Park south field.
Action on both Rumsey fields continues until 3 p.m.
All of today's play is in two pools of three teams each. In pool A are Payson, Benson and Valley Lutheran. St. Johns, Snowflake and Pusch Ridge make up pool B.
A point system is in place to seed the teams into tomorrow's (Saturday) tournament. A win is worth six points and each goal scored, up to a maximum of three, is worth another point. A tie also is worth a point.
On Saturday in a championship bracket, the winner of pool A will play the runner-up in pool B and the first-place finisher in B takes on A's runner-up.
The winners of those two semifinal matches clash at 2 p.m. for the tournament championship. The losers of the semifinals meet at noon in a third-place showdown.
The third-place finishers in pool play, meet at 8 a.m. Saturday for the consolation championship.
Looking for the title
Sporting a 6-1 record, the Longhorns are one of the invitational favorites.
About the only flaw that could slow a Payson offense is the loss of two players to injuries.
In a 5-0 win over Snowflake Sept. 18 at Rumsey Park, Randy Perham suffered a broken jaw and could be out for the season.
Days earlier in a 4-0 over Blue Ridge, Ryan Peters went down with torn ankle ligaments.
Coach Roger Wholly said Peters could return this season, but the best case scenario involving Perham would be to have him back for the state tournament Nov. 8.
"We are not sure he'll be back even for that," Wholly said.
In the win over Pinon, German exchange student Robert Gessler scored the Horns first goal 15 minutes into the game. Only minutes later, Brian Etter and Mike Orozco scored to propel Payson to a 3-0 halftime cushion.
In the second half, the Longhorns padded their lead with goals from Trevor LaHaye, Danny Wing, Travis Sanders, Lucas Schmidt and Patrick Karlowski.
In the encounter against Snowflake, Peters got the Horns off and running with a goal scored 13 minutes into the game.
Leading 1-0 at halftime, Payson came alive late in the game behind goals from Sanders, LaHaye and Wing.
Once again, freshman Patrick Karlowski proved he has the skills to play on the varsity by chalking two assists.
Following Perham's injury, which occurred as the result of a blow to the head from a Snowflake player, two yellow cards were issued to the offending Lobos.
In a jayvee game that was contested just prior to the varsity showdown, freshmen Derek Wimpee scored late to the game to salvage a 1-1 tie with the Lobos. Jake Perna assisted on the goal.
The lone loss the Horns suffered this season was administered by a New Mexico team.
That came in the championship round of the Round Valley Invitational Tournament Sept. 7, when Kirtland whipped the Horns 4-2.