Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) testing and a scheduling quirk could put an end to the Payson High School golf team's 10-year string of state playoff appearances.
Because the state-mandated AIMS testing will be held Oct. 26, 27 and 28, the 4A Grand Canyon region championships -- where teams earn berths to the state tournament -- cannot be held on back-to-back days.
Instead, they'll be contested Oct. 22 and 25 at Continental Golf Club in Flagstaff.
"I don't think that's ever happened before," PHS coach Bret Morse said.
The Friday and Monday playoffs mean the Horns must travel to Flagstaff twice rather than once as the team usually does in regional playoffs.
More travel and split days could result in a less rested and less focused Longhorn team.
"Home teams playing on their own course have a big advantage," Morse said. "Continental is one of Sinagua's home courses so that makes them the team to beat."
Couple the added travel with the fact that the Longhorns are the only GC region team not to play the Continental course this year, and Payson becomes the underdog.
"I don't know if it's an oversight or what, but we have not played at Continental," Morse said. "It's tough to play (well) on a course you haven't seen before."
If the Horns can overcome the rigors of the road and playing a strange course, they would still have to finish first to earn a seed to state.
In the 4A conference, only the region champion receives a bid to the state tournament.
Last season when the regional tournament was played at Chaparral Pines -- one of the Horns home courses -- winning the GC title was no problem. But this fall, the Horns face an entirely new set of obstacles in their quest to nail down a state playoff berth.
The Longhorns also enter the stretch run without veteran players who buoyed last year's team.
The lone returning starter is junior Brad Meyocks. At a three-way, nine hole meet Sept. 13 at Chaparral Pines, Meyocks paced the Longhorns to a second-place finish with a team-high 37. His card lifted Payson to a team score of 219.
Scottsdale Chaparral claimed the title finishing at 190. Scottsdale Coronado trailed with a 225.
In addition to Meyocks' tally, Payson received a 42 from Bryce Danielson and a pair of 46 cards from Nathan Jones and Nate Blanco.
Justin Shuman, usually a Payson stalwart, trailed with a 48.
The Horns returned to Chaparral Pines Sept. 27 in a nine-hole match against Saguaro and Arcadia. (Results not available at press time).
The team travels Oct. 1 and 2 to Buckeye's Sundance Golf Club to participate in the Buckeye Invitational. Nine holes will be played on Friday and 18 Saturday.