It's official -- a homecoming of sorts is in store next year for Payson High School sports teams.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association governing board has returned PHS to the 3A conference East region where the school was aligned most of the years between 1983 and 2002.
During that time, the Horns also spent two-year blocks in the West and now defunct Central Region.
PHS athletic director Dave Bradley spent most of the past week preparing fall sports schedules for the next two years that PHS will be in the East.
As an East member, the Horns will resume rivalries with the likes of Show Low, Snowflake, Blue Ridge and Eagar Round Valley. Alchesay and Holbrook also are members of the East, but the rivalry between the Longhorns and those two schools never quite reached the peak it did between Payson and the White Mountain schools.
The return to 3A East has been met with mixed results among PHS coaches. Some applaud the move; others say PHS should have remained a 4A school.
Golf coach Bret Morse is among those who is pleased with the move. He believes golf competition is more spirited in the East than the Grand Canyon region.
Other coaches contend PHS should have held out to see if it could be aligned in a 4A East Valley region. In it, Payson teams would travel less and, during the winter months, avoid snow-covered Rim country roads.
Payson High's move from the 4A to the 3A conference was approved Oct. 11 at an AIA meeting in Phoenix.
School officials petitioned days earlier for PHS to drop a school size classification mostly because its enrollment was on the cusp of 3A maximum and 4A minimum.
Payson's was the smallest school in 4A with 954 students -- just five more than the 3A maximum of 949.
PHS will now be the largest in 3A with a student body that has 400 more students than Round Valley High School.