A rivalry that began more than two decades ago could be coming to an end when the Rim country Maverick basketball teams open the 2002 campaign today (Tuesday) against the Snowflake Lobos.
As PHS freshmen next season, the current crop of RCMS eighth-graders will no longer find themselves battling the dreaded Lobos for regional honors as their Longhorn predecessors have done for so long.
Due to increasing enrollment, Payson High joins the Class 4A Grand Canyon region next fall while Snowflake will remain in the 3A East region along with Show Low, Blue Ridge and Alchesay.
For the storied prep rivalry to continue between the Longhorns and Lobos, Payson High School athletic director Dave Bradley will have to schedule Snowflake as a non-regional opponent. Even then, the clashes between the two schools -- which began in 1983 when Payson, Show Low, Snowflake and Holbrook formed the now-defunct Class A East -- will be for bragging rights only.
For now, the RCMS athletes have one more season to build upon the tradition of the Payson-Snowflake rivalry.
A 3:30 p.m. today in Snowflake, coach Vince Caballero's seventh-grade girls teams challenge the Lobos. Immediately after, the eighth-grade girls -- led by former Lady Longhorn coach Tim Fruth -- take on the Lobos.
The eighth-grade boys team, which is the only RCMS squad that has seen extensive hardwood action this season, will host the Lobos in RCMS gymnasium. Tip-off is 3:30 p.m.
The Mav team, coached by Rory Huff, debuted Jan. 16 at the Arizona State Junior High School tournament in Phoenix. In that four-day fray, the team finished with a 1-3 record, beating Santa Maria Junior High, but losing to Tucson Tortollia, Booth-Fickett and Scottsdale HoHoKam.
Coach Ross Carpenter's seventh-grade boys are not scheduled to play Snowflake this season. The Mavs are slated to host Blue Ridge at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 20 in RCMS gymnasium.
White Mountain League middle school/junior high action continues until March 4 when the season-ending tournament kicks off. Both RCMS eighth-grade teams will participate in the Steve Rensch's Copper State Jam when it is held Feb. 14 to 16 in Payson.
That tournament annually attracts some of the finest youth teams from around the state.