This is an exciting part of year in high school sports.
Regular season games will soon wrap up and members of the Longhorn basketball, wrestling and soccer teams will have the opportunity to compete in Grand Canyon tournaments.
Good showings in the regular season will earn Payson teams advantageous top-four seeds into those regional tournaments. With good seeds, the local teams improve their chances of advancing to the 4A state championships
The rule of thumb for state has long been that once a team reaches that point, anything can happen. Throw out the underdogs, toss away the favorites -- state is a whole new season.
Most exciting for Payson athletes is they'll be competing for the first time in the 4A conference tournament. The faces of all their competitors will be fresh, new and different. No longer will Longhorn athletes battle longtime adversaries from Blue Ridge, Show Low and Snowflake.
The Horns instead could find themselves nose to nose against athletes representing Tucson Sunnyside, Glendale Cactus, Greenway, Thunderbird, Tucson Palo Verde and Scottsdale Chaparral.
It will also be interesting to learn how the smallest school in the conference, Payson High, fares against the so-called "big schools."
With Payson High's enrollment declining, the school might spend only two years in the 4A ranks before an AIA realignment sends the Longhorns scampering back to 3A. That means the Horns may only have two school years to prove that a small school in Arizona can compete on the 4A level.
You can also wager the family farm that Payson's old rivals from the East region are eagerly watching the postseason wondering how a former 3A team will fare in 4A competition.
When the Longhorn football team finished with an 8-2 record, there were fans in the White Mountains saying "Look what Payson did -- 3A football is every bit as good as 4A."
The Longhorn wrestling team will be particularly spotlighted.
After dominating the 3A conference for decades, fans are wondering if those teams would have been as successful in a big school conference.
Yep, this is an exciting sports season for a lot of reasons.
The first two Little League registrations held Jan. 10 and 14 were not as successful as officials had hoped.
Little League President Chuck Barton is hoping that player registrations show a marked increase when the final registration is held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 24 and 31 at the Payson Inn.
Barton stresses that it is imperative all players be registered by Jan. 31 to allow officials to begin planning for the spring season.
Youngsters 7- to- 15-years-of-age (as of July 31, 2004) are eligible to participate.
When registering, players must bring their birth certificates. The fee is $40 per player. There is a discount available for families who have more than one youngster participating in the program.
At the registration, officials also will accept applications for team managers and coaches.
Following the try outs, minor, major and senior coaches draft players to their teams. The farm league does not draft.
Barton anticipates play will begin in mid-April and continue into June.
For more information, call Barton at (928) 468-1711 or Little League vice president Mark Frantzke at (928) 474-2746.