Preseason practices for Longhorn golf, cross country and volleyball teams began at after-school sessions on Monday.
The football team has been practicing since July 28 and last week donned helmets and pads for the first time.
Arizona Interscholastic Association guidelines allowed the football players to begin earlier than other teams because the Horns have a controlled scrimmage Aug. 22 in Snowflake, and a regular season game set for Aug. 29 vs. Cortez in Longhorn stadium.
Volleyball begins Aug. 29 vs. Blue Ridge in Lakeside; golf tees off Sept. 2 vs. Mingus, Sinagua and Page at the Rim Club; and cross country is off and running Sept. 3 at Payson Golf Course.
The bad news for Longhorn football faithful is the team could be without the services of starting tight end Mike Barr for six to eight weeks.
Barr, a senior, was injured in a waverunner accident Aug. 9 at Roosevelt Lake. According to PHS assistant football coach Mike Loutzenheiser, Barr suffered broken ribs and possibly a slightly punctured lung.
Barr, who is at home recovering, told Loutzenheiser at midweek that he was still in a good deal of pain and wasn't certain when he could return to school.
First-year coach Jerry Rhoades will scour his lineup to try and find an athlete that can fill the void created by the loss of the 6-foot, 7-inch, 225-pound award-winning tight end.
On the net
On the volleyball front, coach Chris Schwind is predicting her team could be the strongest since she took over the reins of the program three years ago.
Schwind had the opportunity to preview her team, and its potential, at several summer open-gym sessions and during three training camps in which the Lady Horns participated.
When the campaign gets under way, the Lady Horns might have to be better than in past years. That's because the competition could be much stiffer.
Payson High School is now a first-year member of the Class 4A Grand Canyon region that houses volleyball powers Flagstaff and Coconino.
Schwind anticipates the two schools will field strong teams because both play year-round club ball.
Schools that have club teams are tough to beat, Schwind said.
Athletic life in the 4A conference will mean big changes for coach Bret Morse's golf squad. In the 3A ranks, where Payson resided for 20 years, golf was played during the spring season.
Now that the Horns are a 4A school, golf becomes a fall sport.
Morse had the opportunity to assess his team this week in practice sessions at Chaparral Pines Golf Club.
The Horns sport two of Arizona's finest young golfers: Billy Bob Hoyt and Brandan Kelley. But Morse has long declared that for the team to battle for a state title, whether it's in the 3A or 4A conference, it must have depth throughout the line-up.
Undoubtedly, Morse will spend preseason practices trying to uncover golfers that can play alongside Hoyt and Kelley.
On the run
While Payson was in the 3A ranks, cross country coach Chuck Hardt built the program into one of the best in the state.
The biggest challenge the veteran coach faces now is keeping that tradition alive in 4A ranks.
That could be a tough obstacle to overcome partly because of increased competition and the fact the Grand Canyon region sends only three teams to the state championship. The 3A conference awarded state berths to four teams.
The running crew does have a solid nucleus of returners to provide leadership. But like the golf team, the Rim runner squad will need roster depth to be successful.
In preseason practices for all sports, a common problem all the coaches faced was the failure of some athletes to complete their eligibility requirements.
Before any high school athlete could practice, they had to have an eligibility card. To receive that, the athletes had to pass a physical exam and have parent permission/insurances forms filled out. Each player also was required to pay a $60 fee.
Some athletes, even upperclassmen, were left standing on the sidelines because they hadn't taken care of their paperwork.