First-year Payson High School football coach Josh Anderson can't hide his enthusiasm for his football players and their families.
"There are so many positive things about the athletes and their parents that impresses me deeply," he said. "The enthusiasm that shows up in these kids makes me love the kids and the game of football more and more each day."
The opportunity for the coach and players to showcase their devotion to gridiron success begins at 7 p.m. this evening, Friday, in Longhorn stadium against the Florence Gophers.
The skirmish, however, is a controlled scrimmage only and no score is to be kept or can statistics be counted in final season standings.
Also, coaches can be on the field and play stopped to allow time for instruction.
The sophomore-laden Horns will counter the Gophers with a trio of two-way players who, Anderson said, have been standouts in preseason practices.
Steel Armstrong, a starter last season as a freshman, will get the starting nod at offensive guard and middle linebacker.
Senior Miles Huff will start as wide receiver and as a defensive back.
Zack Miller, also a senior, will work as tight end and outside linebacker.
Starting quarterback honors will go to sophomore Ridge Halenar, Anderson said.
In the offensive backfield, the new coach has several candidates to carry the pigskin, including Zach Rodgers, Jason Sweet, Shane Keith, Austin Slapnicka, B.J. Hill and Nick Goodman.
Hill moves to a running back/receiver position after being the starting quarterback last season under former coach Jerry Rhoades.
As good as the backfield could be, it will be the offensive line that must pave the way to the end zone.
Possible starters there include Matt Wilson, David Hill, Nick Ford, Bryan Burke and Armstrong.
When the Horns are on defense, Scott Andrus, Oscar Chavez, Mike Young and Zack Burba could get the call on the defensive line.
Defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes, who says the Horns would use a 4-3 scheme this season, can insert Tyler Savage, Chris Eavenson, Huff, Miller and Keith as linebackers and as d-backs.
In assessing the team after three full weeks of preseason training and a camp in August, Anderson calls the players' work ethic outstanding.
"It is what we base everything off of," he said. "It doesn't take talent to work hard."
An obstacle the team must overcome, however, is the injury factor.
"We've had a lot of unnecessary injuries from those who were not around in the summer to work out with the team."
For those players who are healthy, a team goal when they charge onto the field this evening will be to eliminate miscues and remain focused.
"We want to win the turnover battles and never be outworked on the field," Anderson said, emphasizing the word "never."
Although the new coach expressed his disappointment -- only 62 student athletes in a student body of over 900 turned out for football -- he predicts a great future for the program.
"There are close to 50 athletes out for eighth grade football and close to the same amount at the seventh grade level, which is outstanding," he said. "The youth football program has been established and dominated in Payson for many years."
The coach also lauds those who work in the middle school and youth programs.
"Anybody who has helped coach at that level deserves a lot of recognition for the efforts," he said.
Anderson begins his PHS head coaching tenure this evening, "excited about being a part of a school program rich in athletic tradition and especially football pride."
On Anderson's first coaching staff are Kenny Hayes, Joe Parone, Brian Young, Bob Hoyt, Bret Morse, Les Barr and Jerod Torrey.
For tonight's scrimmage, there is no admission charge.
-- To reach Max Foster call 474-5251 ext. 114 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.