Zak Miller now clutches one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a prep football player.
The laurel arrived early this week when state coaches announced the players chosen to the All-State First, Second and Honorable Mention Offensive and Defensive teams. The player coaches tapped as the Class 3A All-State first team tight end was Miller.
The selection is a prestigious accomplishment in that the 6-1, 175-pound Miller was in competition against all starting tight ends, about 30-plus, who play in the four regions of the 3A conference.
Although he was chosen on the offensive side of the ball, it was his defense that earned him praise during a season-ending award ceremony held Nov. 29 at the Tonto Apache Reservation. There, he was the recipient of the Mr. Defense citation and was also named the team's Most Valuable Player.
During the 2006 campaign, Miller tied for second in the East region in total yards lost by quarterback sacks.
His honors also include a berth on the All-East region first team and being voted a Longhorn co-captain.
PHS coach Josh Anderson praised Miller as an all-around athlete and team leader.
"At one time he was leading the team in receptions, receiving yards and TDs," Anderson said. "He's a solid, coachable kid who we are going to miss."
Miller was the only Payson player selected first or second team but Nate Doyle, a 6-0, 140-pound senior, was chosen an honorable mention special team kick and punt returner.
Doyle was also was a field goal specialist whose finest moment might have come during his junior season.
In front of an overflow 2005 homecoming crowd in Longhorn stadium, his clutch 24-yard field gold with 23 seconds remaining lifted the Horns to a 17-14 upset of state third-ranked Fountain Hills.
The East's All-State selections
Also on the All-State First Offensive team from the East region were Ray Hamblin (line; Winslow), Francisco Bonilla (kicker; Blue Ridge) and Frank Parkinson (returner; Blue Ridge).
The first team offense was dominated by two-time defending state champion Coolidge with four players chosen.
Second team offense team members from the East were Dewight Boyd (line; Blue Ridge), and Josh Cutis (line; Round Valley).
On the honorable mention offense from the East were Justin Crick (RB; Round Valley), Cody Rodriquez (WR; Snowflake), Kellin Walker (WR; Round Valley).
On the All-State Defensive first team were Travis Tickey (LB; Round Valley), Ethan Amos (LB; Alchesay), Ross Eagar (line; RV).
On the second defensive team were Jeff Baldanado (line; Blue Ridge) and Chase Rogers (line; Round Valley),
Honorable mention defensive players Kellin Walker (d-back; Round Valley), Evan Hamblin (d-back; Round Valley), Derrek Brewer (backer; Show Low) and Kyle Root (line; Show Low).
The Defensive Player of the Year was Jeff Alder of Wickenburg.
Coolidge quarterback Jessie Wheeler was named the Offensive Player of the Year.
Norris Vaughn of Wickenburg was named the 3A Coach of the Year.
With all-region and all-state selections complete, all that remains for the senior players is for coaches to select those athletes who will play next summer in the annual Arizona Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game.
In 2006 in Goodyear, Payson's Luke Apfel was named the all-star game's "Most Valuable Player."
Jessie Wheeler, a quarterback from Coolidge was named the 3A Outstanding Offensive Player.