Horns Struggle In Early Season

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After finishing 0-3 at the Glendale Skyhawk Classic tournament, the Longhorns boys soccer team (1-3-1) suffered a 3-3 sister-kisser against newly built Chandler Basha High School.

According to PHS coach Roger Wholly the Dec. 12 deadlock at Basha was an exercise in frustration.

"After a long recovery period from the tournament, one player dropped out of the program and two (others) informed me the morning of the game that they would not be playing," he said.

All of that bad news came only weeks after the Longhorn junior varsity program had to be canceled for lack of participation.

The depleted roster of 15 varsity players, unraveled by the defections, traveled to Basha hoping to break the three-game losing streak.

Although the Bears and Longhorns had never played one another, the two clashed as if they were longtime rivals.

Labeling the game "heated," Wholly said both teams earned yellow cards early in the proceedings. For Payson, Cody Stewart was ticketed for unsportsmanlike behavior. Basha's Danny Keehan was cited for dangerous play.

When play was restored, Basha -- a school that has just freshmen and sophomore classes this year -- took a 1-0 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. Just six minutes later, Payson responded with a Trevor LaHaye goal "to the back of the net," Wholly said.

After Basha came back in front 2-1, Payson roared back to tie the score on a goal by attacking midfielder Logan Hopkins.

With 20 minutes remaining in the game, Payson assumed a 3-2 lead on a goal off the foot of Daniel Reisdorf. LaHaye was credited with an assist.

Basha refused to roll over and play dead. With just eight seconds on the game clock, the Bears knotted up the game on a shot from the top of the box.

The marathon-like game was eventually extended into two 10- minute overtime periods. "But no one could score so the game ended in a tie," Wholly said.

In the Skyhawk tournament, Payson opened play Dec. 1 with a 3-1 loss to Glendale Apollo. The following day, the defending 1A-3A state co-champs Horns fell 5-1 to Deer Valley. In the third round, Payson dropped a 5-1 decision to Phoenix Central.

Because all of the games were played in the Valley, the PHS players found themselves playing the role of road warriors.

"We put in 30 hours of travel in three days," Wholly said.

Following the loss to Phoenix Central, Michael Orozco -- a stalwart the past two seasons for the Horns -- opted to leave the team for personal reasons.

Also in the game, the Horns lost the service of Michael Fanizza who was sidelined with an ankle injury.

The Longhorns will now take a holiday break from play before returning to action at 3 p.m., Jan. 7 against Moon Valley. Weather permitting, the game will be played on the Rumsey Park library field.

All-important Class 4A Grand Canyon play begins at 11 a.m. Jan. 10 in Flagstaff against the homestanding Eagles. The results of the Longhorns five GC teams this season will be used to seed Payson in the regional tournament to be played Jan. 26.

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