The pipeline of players that flows from the Payson Raiders youth football team to the Payson High School Longhorns continues to surge strong and steady.
PHS's next supply of solid young athletes could come from the most recent edition of the Raiders. That team wrapped up the campaign last week with an unblemished record and a Central Arizona Youth Football League championship.
Most impressive about the gridiron crew is that it dominated its competition outscoring opponents by a whopping 278-26 margin.
Although the Raider roster sported 22 players at the onset of the season, only 15 remained when the team defeated the Chino Valley Trojans 20-0 for the CAYFA title.
According to Raiders assistant coach Dale Gonzales, the players opened the season unaware of the potential each possessed.
"Game after game, the kids kept making things happen with the first year players listening to the veterans," he said.
The second year Raiders were members of the 2002 team that last season narrowly lost the CAYFA championship to the Camp Verde Bulldogs.
According to Gonzales, the Dogs scored the winning TD on a highly controversial call by an official.
The disappointment of that defeat helped fuel the veterans' determination to win the title this season, Gonzales said.
Next season, the older members of the Raider team will take their gridiron skills to both the Rim Country Middle School eighth grade and Payson High School freshman teams.
Gonzales and the staff say they are hoping the athletes will follow in the footsteps of other Raider players who made their mark on the Horn varsity.
Ex-Raiders who helped the Longhorns compile an 8-2 mark last season included Tyler Williams, Mike Barr, Mark McRae, Ryan Theil, J.R. Szabo and James Gibson.