Payson Gets Preseason Peek At The Asu Football Team

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Devils' disciples from around the state will soon gather at scenic Camp Tontozona for a preseason peek at their beloved Arizona State University football team and to gear up for the regular season-ending Duel in the Desert against the archrival Wildcats.

At stake in that battle will be the Territorial Cup, the country's oldest documented trophy, and bragging rights for the next year.

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For fans planning a trip to Camp Tontozona, the Aug. 12 practice is a good session to take in because it is a scrimmage. The large number of fans can create a traffic jam on Highway 260 just east of Kohl's Ranch. So, leave early.

That annual clash, which this year will be played in Arizona Stadium, could be even more heated, if that's at all possible, than past showdowns.

Arizona will enter looking for revenge for a 23-20 loss last year to the Sun Devils.

The Cats held a 20-12 lead late in the game only to see ASU come roaring back for the win.

During ASU's rally, the Cats top two weapons, quarterback Willie Tuitama and running back Mike Bell, went down with injuries.

In Tucson, they're calling the hits that sent the two to the sidelines "cheap shots."

Some ASU players, and fans are still seething over a comment then-senior safety Clay Hardt made in 2003 when he said he enjoyed "beating them up there in their own house and then beating them again after the game."

He was referring to an incident in 2001 when some Arizona players began dancing on the Sparky Logo on Frank Kush field. ASU players took offense and a melee broke out at midfield.

The draws at Tontozona have long been a free sneak peek of the next edition of Sun Devils football team and the chance for fans to begin their mission to help "Beat Arizona."

This year at the mountain retreat, located 17 miles east of Payson, all eyes will probably be on two of the top quarterbacks in the nation.

Senior Sam Keller and redshirt sophomore Rudy Carpenter will battle for starting signal caller honors and the right to engineer coach Dirk Koetter's high-powered passing offense.

Last year, Keller threw for 2,165 yards and 20 touchdowns before a thumb injury forced him to miss the final 5 1/2 games.

Carpenter came on to relieve Keller and finished with 2,273 yards and 17 TDs. His passing efficiency mark of 175 was the highest in the nation.

Koetter's job at Tontozona will be to tap one of the cannon-armed QBs as the starter.

The mountain camp is an ideal location for the coach to do just that. It is a pristine secluded setting that allows for concentration and preparation away from the hustle and bustle of the Tempe campus.

Carved out of the woods in the 1950s by former coach Frank Kush and a group of loyal supporters, the camp is one of the most scenic football training sites in the country.

In the early years, the facilities there were spartan, but in 2001, $1 million in school funds was used to upgrade the camp.

Although the camp is known for the football practiced there, some who travel there are not sports fans. They are simply visiting to view the bubbling waters of Tonto Creek, the tall ponderosa pines, the beautifully manicured grounds and possibly catch a glimpse of a wild animal or two.

For fans planning a trip to Camp Tontozona, the Aug. 12 practice is a good session to take in because it is a scrimmage. However, the scrimmage annually draws thousands of Valley area fans creating a log jam on Highway 260 just east of Kohl's Ranch. Because parking is limited, be prepared for a long hike from the highway down to the camp.

Some practices, the players will don full pads. In others, they will be in "shells" or half-pads.

If rain renders the Tontozona field unplayable, practices will be moved to the Rumsey Park south field.

Camp Tontozona schedule

Aug. 10: 3:40 to 6 p.m.

Aug. 11: 8:35 to 11:05 a.m. and 3:50 to 6 p.m.

Aug. 12: 8:35 to 11:05 a.m.

Aug. 13: 8:35 to 11:05 a.m. and 3:50 to 6 p.m.

Aug. 14: 3 to 6 p.m.

Aug. 15: 8:35 to 11:05 a.m. and 3:50 to 6 p.m.

Aug. 16: 3 to 6 p.m.

Aug. 17: 8:35 to 11:05 a.m.

-- To reach Max Foster call 474-5251 ext. 114 or e-mail mfoster@payson.com.

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