Eight members of the Longhorn football team have earned postseason accolades by the Grand Canyon Region football coaches.
All-GCR first team members include middle linebacker Cash Armstrong and tailback Luke Apfel. Second team honors were garnered by defensive lineman Tyler Williams, punter Chris Skinner and offensive linemen Kevin Allen and Don Engler.
Derek Hoosava earned an honorable mention cornerback/safety and James Gibson received honorable mention honors as a flanker/runningback.
The eight will be honored at the team's season-ending awards ceremony at 6 p.m. Jan. 6 at Rim Country Middle School.
Coach Jerry Rhoades said all the PHS players selected should be proud because the 4A GC region is very competitive.
In selecting Armstrong first team, GCR coaches tapped the Longhorns leading defender who held down the "Mike" or middle linebacker slot in the Horns' even-front defense.
According to year-end statistics, Armstrong finished with 160 assisted and 11 solo tackles.
When not on defense, Armstrong saw some action at fullback rushing 12 times for 70 yards.
The good news in Armstrong's selection is that he is a junior and will return to the Longhorn fold in 2005.
Apfel was the Horns' workhorse who led the team in rushing with 1,137 yards on 152 carries. His 7.5 yards-per-carry average was one of the best in the region. Apfel also was the team's leading scorer with 18 TDs; 15 were scored rushing, two receiving and one passing. As a receiver coming out of the backfield, Apfel hauled in eight passes for 111 yards.
While the speedster played tailback most of his prep career, he was forced to take some midseason snaps at quarterback when starter Donnie Wilbanks went down with a knee injury.
On defense, Apfel was perhaps the Longhorns best cover corner. He usually drew the assignment of defending the opponent's top receiver. He finished with 33 assisted tackles and 11 solos.
Williams, a senior, was chosen all-region by the coaches as a defensive lineman. But, it was his all-around contributions on both sides of the ball that made him one of the Horns' most accomplished players.
When playing noseguard, his strength, quickness and low center of gravity made him to tough to block. He finished with 54 assisted tackles, three solos, three quarterback sacks, four hurries and two caused fumbles.
As a fullback and tailback, he averaged 4.8 yards on 176 carries and scored 12 touchdown. He also caught five passes for 41 yards and returned three kickoffs for 77 yards.
Next season, Rhoades will be hard-pressed to find an adequate replacement for the versatile Williams.
For Skinner, selection to the all-GCR team was the second successive year he's been tapped. Last year, he was chosen as a defensive lineman which he also played this season. As a punter, he was one of the best in the region with a 35.2 yards average. In booting the pigskin, he had one touchback, four punts downed inside the 20-yard-line and none were blocked.
On defense, he was the Horns third leading tackler with 59 assists, five solos and three sacks.
For Allen and Engler, both juniors, their selection to the second team represents much deserved recognition for their unheralded work on offense. Throughout the year, it was their "roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work" approach to the game that made them valuable members of the team.
In earning honorable mention laurels, Gibson wraps up a four-year high school football career in which he was a rock solid performer coaches could count on at crunch time.
Playing wingback, flanker and running back on offense, he rushed for 319 yards on 65 attempts and scored two touchdowns. His 4.9 yards-per-carry average was second only to Apfel.
As a receiver, he corralled a team-leading 10 passes for 119 yards and a TD. He also was the Longhorn's leading punt returner with 24 returns for 313 yards. He also returned 18 kickoffs for 418 yards and often was just one step away from going the distance.
Gibson's 87 tackles from his outside linebacker position was second only to Armstrong.
Hoosava, a wide receiver, finished the year with six receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown. Playing corner and safety on defense, he racked up 40 tackles, two interceptions, two fumbles caused and one fumble recovery.
As a team, the Longhorns finished with a 4-6 record after dropping a season-ending 14-12 heartbreaker to Flagstaff Sinagua.
The loss to the Mustangs ended what was once a promising season that turned disastrous after a Sept. 24 homecoming loss to Prescott.
The Horns opened the campaign with four straight wins and were ranked among the top-15 teams in the 4A conference.
Due to a multitude of injuries, the season ended with a disappointing six-game losing streak.
Next season, the Horns will leave the Class 4A Grand Canyon region to return to the 3A conference Payson was a member for two decades.
Last fall, the AIA granted Payson High's request to move down to 3A from 4A.
School officials made the request partly because the PHS student body count was only five students over the 3A maximum of 960.