Thanks to the generosity of the Tonto Apaches, the Longhorn football team will be traveling Friday to Page in first-class style.
Late last week, the tribe -- through spokespersons Farrel Hoosava and Marylin Boys -- announced it would provide a 50-passenger chartered travel bus for the team's almost four-hour trip to Page.
Without that donation, the players and coaches would have had to make the tiresome jaunt to Page in the traditional yellow buses that are more designed for short trips than lengthy, cross-country journeys.
The yellow buses have hard bench seats, no air conditioning or sound proofing and very little motor power for those long, uphill pulls into Flagstaff and Page.
The state-of-the-art Coach USA bus the tribe has agreed to furnish will be outfitted with rest rooms, comfortable reclining seats, tinted windows, air conditioning and more engine power for uphill pulls.
Coach Jerry Rhoades was among those elated with the tribe's donation.
"Our kids won't get all beat up on the trip," he said. "They should be much fresher for the game."
Assistant coach Jack Morris agreed.
"It will be much better for our kids," he said. "That's a long, long trip."
Morris should know about the nuances of the long trip north on a school bus. He and assistant coach Mike Loutzenheiser were members of the 1986 football team that opened the state tournament in Page.
"That's a bus trip we'll never forget. I remember looking forward to every rest stop," Morris said.
For Loutzenheiser, the most difficult part of the trip was trying to get comfortable on the ride home.
"I remember pulling into the (PHS) parking lot about 3:30 (a.m.) and having slept only about 30 minutes."
In the mid-1980s, the school owned the infamous "Longhorn Bus," as it was called in those bygone days. Although it was a step up from the traditional yellow bus, it was not the state-of-the-art vehicle the Tonto Apaches will be providing.
Although the jaunt to Page was rough on Loutzenheiser, Morris and their teammates, the Longhorns defeated Page and advanced to the state championship game.