Players Learn The Longhorn Way

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More than 40 aspiring players turned out Monday afternoon for the week-long Learn in the Longhorn Way preseason football camp.

The camp, which was conducted on a volunteer basis, marked the unofficial onset of the 2003 prep season. The campaign officially kicks off at 3:15 p.m. Aug. 4.

Sessions at the camp, which wrap up this evening (Friday), opened at 5 p.m. with one-hour weight-lifting sessions in the Payson High School training room.

Following the weight training, the prospective players -- all of which were of high school age -- traveled to the Rumsey Park south field where two-hour practices were held.

During the sessions, players learned and practiced the nuances of first year-coach Jerry Rhoades' gridiron program.

Offensively, the new coach installed a Wing-T that will be significantly different than the one used last year by former coach Steve Saben.

For fans, the most obvious of those changes will be along the offensive line. No longer will the lineman align themselves right and left along the line of scrimmage. Rather, they will be in strong and quick side formations.

Defensively, the Horns have abandoned the 50 or odd front defense used last year in favor of a 43 defense that features four down linemen, three linebackers and four players in the secondary.

As Mingus High School defensive coordinator last season, Rhoades had good success with the 43 defense that is similar to what some college and pro teams opt for.

Players also learned the techniques of proper special teams play with emphasis on punts and punt returns. Other aspects of the camp included physical conditioning, agility and good attitudes.

Rhoades and his staff say they were impressed by the dedication and work ethic of those who attended the camp.

When official football practices begin Monday afternoon, all prospective players must have their physical and permission slips on file in the office of athletic director Dave Bradley before they will be allowed to participate.

This season, the Longhorns spring into action a week earlier than other fall sports at PHS. The team travels to Snowflake Aug. 22 for its annual preseason scrimmage. Kickoff is 7 p.m. Under Arizona Interscholastic Association rules, no score can be kept and the game statistics are not counted in final tabulations.

The campaign officially begins in at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 on PHS field against the Cortez Colts.

For more information, call Rhoades at 474-2233.

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