Almost anyone who watched the Payson Raiders overwhelm Camp Verde Saturday morning on PHS field had to be impressed by the sheer talent on the local Central Arizona Youth Association team. In more than three decades of coaching, I've watched some superb teams in action. But, I can recall very few that are as talented as the Raiders.
If that crew of young players stays together and continues to mature and develop, the Longhorns could be battling for a state championship in a few years.
But, that's a big "if."
There's been some very good teams pass through the CAYFA and Rim Country Middle School programs. So far, only one -- the PHS Class 3A state championship team of 1998 -- lived up to its potential.
That group -- led by Cable Morris, Hunter Walden and Mark Bennett -- showed promise as a youth team and continued through the years to develop. Of course, that team -- which graduated in 1999 -- had another exceptional group of youngsters behind in the class of 2000.
Payson High School athletic director Dave Bradley has finalized winter sports schedules for wrestling, girls basketball, boys basketball, boys soccer and girls soccer teams.
In coming issues of the Roundup, those teams will be previewed and complete regular season schedules will be included.
The first to debut this season will be the basketball teams. Both squads open Nov. 21 in pre-season scrimmages. The Lady Longhorns host Phoenix Christian in Wilson dome. The boys travel to Lakeside to play Blue Ridge.
Next up, Nov. 25, the Longhorn boys soccer team travels to Scottsdale Coronado. The Lady Horn soccer team travels to the Higley Tournament Dec. 3, 5 and 6.
The Longhorn varsity wrestlers debut Dec. 10 in Wilson dome against Show Low and Blue Ridge.
Preseason practices began Oct. 27.
3A tournament under way
Payson High no longer competes in the 3A conference, but it's tough not to keep an eye on the small school football tournament seeing what's going on with our old foes from the East regions.
In the first round of the playoffs Nov. 7, Show Low beat Sahuarita 33-12, Blue Ridge thumped Wickenburg 42-14 and Snowflake overpowered Hopi.
In other 3A games of local interest, former Longhorn coach Curt LeBlanc led his Queen Creek team to a tournament opening 54-0 win over Red Rock.
Cannon fired up
Payson's Blake Cannon is continuing his charge through the ranks of the Desert Junior Golf Tournament.
After finishing first in the tour opener two weeks ago, Cannon played to a second-place finish at the Junior Master Championships Oct. 25 and 26 at Stone Creek Golf Club in Phoenix.
Competing in the boys eight-years-and-under division, Cannon finished with a 184 on the 4,600 par 71 course. His card included a 98 on the first day and an 86 on the second. Cannon's two-day tally was just one stroke off the pace set by age group champion Matthew Plunkett of Chandler.
According to Cannon's father, the youngster will continue to compete in the 18 events of the Desert Junior Golf tour. The tour has slated events in California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona.