Preseason Practice Kicks Off In Longhorn Land

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Longhorn football practices began Monday for members of the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity teams.

AIA rules allow the football team to start a week earlier than the other fall sports teams because the players open their season a week before volleyball, golf and cross country.

Practice for those teams begins Aug. 9.

The football team originally was scheduled to host the Snowflake Lobos in a pre-season controlled scrimmage Aug. 20. Snowflake officials, however, backed out of the commitment in order to host a scrimmage against Chandler Basha.

PHS athletic director Dave Bradley and coach Jerry Rhoades are replacing the Lobos with Peoria Centennial.

"It will be played here either Aug. 20 or 21," Rhoades said. "We don't know the time as yet."

The Horns open the regular season at 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at Glendale Cortez.

Most of the prospective players began practices yesterday buoyed by the conditioning and skills acquired during the Longhorn football camp July 19 to 23.

During the week-long camp, the players lived on the PHS campus, practiced twice each day and participated in passing league competition under the lights.

About 100 players from Paradise Valley Horizon High School also participated in the camp.

The purpose of the camp, Rhoades said, was to allow the athletes a jumpstart on the season and to teach them the new option offense the Horns will run this year.

Following the close of camp, assistant coaches Mike Loutzenheiser, Jimbo Armstrong and Rhoades took nine senior players on a weekend retreat to Bear Canyon.

"It was great. We got a lot of things accomplished," Rhoades said. "We wanted to use the weekend to build leadership and I think we did it."

The senior group has a nucleus of seasoned players --led by quarterback Donnie Wilbanks and fullback Tyler Williams --ho have been together for four years. As freshmen, they played a game only days after the tragic events of Sept. 11.

Last year, Payson's first in the 4A conference, the Longhorns finished 8-2 but did not earn a berth to state because they didn't compile enough points in the power-point playoff system.

Points are awarded on strength of schedule as well as victories.

Although Payson will play an almost identical schedule as last season's -- only the home and away sites will be reversed -- Rhoades is confident the Horns can pick up enough quality wins to earn the points to advance to state.

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