Payson High School's realignment next school year from the 3A East to the 4A Grand Canyon Region will result in numerous changes for prep athletes, coaches, fans and parents.
Those affected most will be the soccer and golf team members who will see their entire seasons shifted.
While in the 3A conference, soccer was played in a fall league. In 4A, soccer is contested during the winter season along with basketball and wrestling. That means athletes who previously participated in two sports -- like basketball and soccer -- will now be forced to choose between the two.
Such athletes include Kyle Hubbard and Amy Wilcox. Last school year, the two competed in both basketball and soccer. That scenario will not be possible with PHS in the 4A ranks.
Also in past years, Payson High played golf during the spring season. In the 4A conference, golf will be contested in the fall along with football, volleyball and cross country.
Athletes who previously participated in a combination of those sports will have to make a choice.
For the past three years, Billy Bob Hoyt has played both football and golf. As a senior next year, he'll have to choose between the two sports.
Golf coach Bret Morse says the move to fall from spring might result in the team playing in better weather conditions. Spring golf matches in Snowflake, Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside were often played in snow flurries.
In the fall, temperatures in the Rim country, near Flagstaff and in Phoenix, where the state tournament will be played, should be much more conducive to the sport than the freezing cold of the White Mountains.
If there is a downside for the golf team moving to 4A, it's that the region sends only one of four teams to the state tournament.
"We have to be champion to go (to state)," Morse said. "That will make it tough."
In the 3A East, four golf teams qualified for state.
In most other 4A sports, except football, the seven-team Grand Canyon Region qualifies three teams for state and those are determined in postseason tournaments. Regular season results will be used for seeding purposes only.
The six-team 3A East Region qualifies four teams for state berths.
In football, the GC's three seeds to state are determined by a sophisticated power point system that takes into consideration wins, losses, strength of schedule and other factors.
While in the six-team East, all it took for a football team to reach the state tournament was to finish among the top four in the regular season standings.
Simply put, Payson teams will be playing in a larger region but fewer teams will be advancing to postseason play.
"It's going to be tougher to get to state (in the 4A)," PHS athletic director Dave Bradley said.
Playing on weekends and Wednesdays
A change that will be noticed more by underclassmen and parents is that freshman and jayvee schedule dates will be different than in the East.
In football, some freshman and jayvee games will be played on Wednesdays and Saturdays rather than the traditional late Thursday afternoon format of the East Region.
In other sports like basketball, the freshmen and jayvees might not play games at the same site as the varsity, as was previously the case in the 3A East.
"If the varsity is away, the freshman and jayvee could be home," Bradley said.
When Payson was realigned to the 4A GC Region last spring, a huge concern of players, coaches and parents was winter travel over the Lake Mary Road to northern Arizona schools.
That remains an issue that will have to be solved with creative scheduling, Bradley said.
One travel problem was solved when GC member Chinle opted to play an independent football schedule rather than a region agenda. That means Payson will not have to make the six-hour bus ride to the reservation school.
In golf, a travel problem was eliminated when a possible Payson trip to faraway Page for a nine-hole showdown was nixed.
In the 4A conference, only nine-hole matches are allowed in dual competition. In the East, most all matches were 18-holes.
"I can't imagine going to Page for nine holes," Morse said.
Practices on the horizon
Prospective Payson High football players are allowed to begin preparations for their first year of play in 4A Monday, Aug. 4, when practices officially begin.
For all other sports, preseason practices begin Aug. 11.
Arizona Interscholastic Association rules allow football to start a week early because the PHS team has a preseason scrimmage Aug. 22 (in Snowflake) and plays its season opener Aug. 29 (at home vs. Cortez). Other sports do not begin competition until the week of Sept. 1.
Athletes planning to participate in winter sports must have their physical exams and parents' permission slips on file in Bradley's office before they will be permitted to practice.
For more information, call Bradley at 474-2233.