An athlete who once starred on Payson youth football and Little League teams played a prominent role in Army's 27-24 upset of Air Force.
Pete Hargis, now a plebe at West Point and a freshman member of the Army football team, spent the practice week leading up to the game running the scout team's option offense.
Army coach Bobby Ross called upon Hargis to duplicate the Air Force's tricky triple option attack because he'd run the offense while quarterbacking Tempe Desert Vista.
His ability to execute the option offense helped prepare the Black Knights' defense for what they faced in the Nov. 6 showdown played on the campus of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"I went at it all week," Hargis said. "It's made me a better option quarterback and I think we helped the defense."
After graduating from Desert Vista last spring, Hargis enrolled at the U.S. Army Military Academy with aspirations of continuing his football career.
Only years prior, the choice of West Point would have been a strange one for the strong-armed lefty.
"I really never thought I would go to a military school to play football," he said. "So far I really enjoy West Point and I'm currently doing well in school and football.
"The hardest thing is adjusting to the military."
Although he began the season ninth on the quarterback depth chart, he has since moved up to fourth. With Army's top two signal callers set to graduate next spring and Ross leaning toward running more option football, Hargis is expected to battle fellow freshman Carlo Sandiego for the starting quarterback position.
Hargis entered the military academy June 27 and immediately enrolled in Cadet Basic Training, or "Beast Barracks."
Hargis said in it, cadets learn military skills they'll need when they eventually earn their second lieutenant's commission in the U.S. Army.
Hargis expects to graduate from West Point in 2009.
Youth league star
The road from growing up in Pine and Strawberry to West Point has been paved with a strong work ethic and plenty of athletic accomplishments.
In 1999, Hargis was a standout member of the Payson Giants Little League and was selected to the Payson all-star team at season's end.
The following fall he became a member of a youth league's Eagles football team -- along with Josh Blalock and Cash Armstrong -- that upset the Payson Raiders 22-6.
Late in the season, he scored two touchdowns to help the Eagles remain unbeaten, with a 26-0 win over the Cottonwood Outlaws.
In the fall of 2000, Hargis continued his gridiron success quarterbacking the RCMS eighth-grade Mavericks to an undefeated season.
In addition to starting under center, he was a defensive demon who helped the Mav defense finish the year without giving up a single point.
In a season-ending 42-0 win over Round Valley, Hargis returned an intercepted pass 60 yards for a TD.
So, why did such a promising athlete leave Payson for Tempe Desert Vista?
Hargis said he left after his eighth grade year at RCMS because he and his family felt there would be more athletic and academic opportunities in Tempe.
After Hargis enrolled at Desert Vista as a freshman, he went on to become one of the finest football players in the history of the storied Thunder program.
A stellar senior year as the Thunder's signal caller earned Hargis collegiate offers from Idaho State, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, New Mexico and The United States Military Academy.
After traveling to West Point, N.Y. last January, Hargis refused all offers in order to play for second-year coach Bobby Ross at Army.
Ross is a coach of some fame, having led the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl and Georgia Tech to a national championship.
But Ross' resume wasn't the reason Hargis chose Army.
Rather, he selected the military academy because Ross offered him the opportunity to play quarterback. The other schools were recruiting Hargis as a defensive back.
The lure Hargis had for recruiters is easily understandable -- during his high school career he was one of the most hard-nosed, well-rounded players in Arizona.
For the Thunder in 2004, the 6-foot-1-inch, 190-pound Hargis started at quarterback and played free safety on defense.
In huge 5A schools like Desert Vista, only a handful of players are ever good enough to start on both sides of the ball. Hargis was one of that handful.
He was also a team captain and was chosen to the All-Central Region and all-city teams. One of his most notable feats was winning the Jimmy Williams Leather Helmet award for being the toughest kid on the Desert Vista team.
Hargis' hard-nosed approach to the game apparently has remained with him at West Point.
Army offensive coordinator Kevin Ross has said Hargis "is as tough as they come."
Hargis' grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Ginn, live in Strawberry.